The dark underbelly of antipsychotics

By Vince Bloem

Many non-medical personnel are making decisions related to the use of psychiatric drugs for children and adults. These may be poorly informed about these substances and may be alarmed by the negative outcomes they see daily in their client base.

Straight answers to simple questions on this subject are incredibly hard to come by.

It has been estimated that 69 cents out of each dollar spent on antipsychotic medications in the U.S. comes from the taxpayers pocket. A new federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children in the public system are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts.

While the use of these dangerous medications in children is grossly repugnant, a look at the prescribing practices in adults within this system defies reason. Two, three, and even more different antipsychotics, each in maximally allowable doses, are prescribed to many of these patients. This is all top shelf stuff, some costing the the taxpayer the better part of $1,000 a month for each individual prescription.

So if the findings of maxi-doses of multiple same-class products to the same person is correct, the drug bills for many individuals in this system can easily range upwards of $50,000/year for individual clients, even at government pricing. Adding to this drain on the public coffers is the cost of unnecessary treatment-caused hospitalizations, the ancillary treatment to relieve iatrogenics, and the many other problems these medications cause.

The human cost in terms of productive lives lost and quality of life is incalculable.

The question here is:

  • Are these prescribing practices effective or are these just making the problem worse?
  • Can be medications of this magnitude be justified as medical necessity?
  • So, what are the outcomes? Morbidity and the death rates associated with psychoactive products is outrageous.

From a major NIMH-funded survey, these individuals will die 25 to 30 years before their peers* in the general population. They will suffer and die from many treatment-related conditions. For the full report click here.*

* As alarming as these numbers are, today’s real-world numbers might be far worse. This paper was published in 2006. The data used in this study was from years prior to 2000. The use of psychotropics have increased exponentially in the more than ten years since the data was compiled for this paper. Before the ’90s, the mortality deficit was the then-alarming ten years of shorter life expectancy.

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