COLORADO HEAT WAVE SPIKES RISK OF DANGEROUS OVERHEATING FOR THOSE TAKING PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS

 

By Petr Kratochvil
Image by Petr Kratochvil

Colorado’s current heat wave increases the risk of heat-related illness and death for those taking psychiatric drugs, most especially antipsychotic and “ADHD” drugs.

Psychiatric drugs cause people taking them to be less sensitive to signals from their body.  Many of the drugs also directly interfere with the body’s ability to respond to heat.  As a result, individuals taking psychiatric drugs can overheat when temperatures soar and not realize it, running a greater risk of heat exhaustion or life-threatening heat stroke.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, psychiatric drugs that interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself down include antipsychotics, tranquilizers, and tricyclic antidepressants.   These drugs make individuals more susceptible to dangerous overheating.

Antipsychotic drugs, in particular, are known to increase the risk of heat stroke, as evidenced by a medical alert issued in April by the New York Office of Mental Health.  Children and the elderly – the most physically vulnerable – who are taking antipsychotic drugs face a still higher risk.

The risk of heat-related illness and death is also increased by stimulants, including the stimulant drugs prescribed for so-called ADHD.

Stimulant drugs raise body temperature, as well as interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself down, so that high summer temperatures cause body temperatures already elevated by these drugs to go higher still.

Those taking psychiatric drugs should limit their exposure to summer heat and strenuous activity and drink plenty of water.  Seek medical attention for someone who becomes disoriented, whose skin is dry and hot, or who has difficulty waking up, with particular attention paid to children and the elderly.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know has experienced adverse effects from psychiatric drugs, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.

Government Needs To Improve Oversight of Psychiatric Drugging of Vulnerable Populations

Federal lawmakers received two major reports last week on the troubling lack of oversight at the federal level of the prescribing of psychiatric drugs to two of our nation’s most vulnerable populations:  foster children and the elderly in care facilities.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the massive psychiatric drugging of foster children recommended that federal health officials do more to monitor how state agencies oversee Medicaid doctors’ prescribing of powerful, mind-altering drugs to children who end up in the state’s care after being abused, neglected or abandoned.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., requested the GAO investigation after receiving numerous complaints about the quantity of drugs being prescribed and the adverse effects of the drugs experienced by foster kids.

The GAO recommended that the US Department of Health and Human Services  come up with guidance for states on how to oversee the prescribing of psychiatric drugs for foster children.

In a separate investigation, government inspectors called on Medicare officials to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs for the elderly living in care facilities.

In particular, antipsychotics are given to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients to sedate them and make them more manageable.

But the drugs carry an increased risk of death for seniors, which led the FDA to issue warnings against prescribing the drugs to the elderly.

Despite repeated government warnings, the unapproved practice has continued.

The HHS Inspector General told the Senate Committee on Aging that Medicare should begin penalizing nursing homes that overdrug with antipsychotics .  Medicare could force nursing homes to pay for drugs that are prescribed wrongly and bar the facilities from the Medicare program.

If you know a foster child or nursing home patient who has been harmed by psychiatric drugs, we want to talk to you. You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225. All information will be kept in the strictest confidence. We welcome your comments on this article below.

Why Was Death Of Ft. Carson Soldier On Psych Drugs Changed From Sudden Cardiac Death To Suicide?

 

By Gary Daniel (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Gary Daniel (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Pfc. Ryan Alderman was on a cocktail of psych drugs when found unresponsive, then dying in his barracks at Ft. Carson in 2008.  An ECG done by emergency medical technicians at the scene confirmed sudden cardiac arrest.  Inexplicably, military officials changed the cause of death to suicide.

Neurologist Fred A. Baughman Jr., M.D., wants to know why.  He challenges the military to produce the evidence to support the change.

In the bigger picture, Baughman continues to hammer away at the military to compile a database of medication use and reactions by soldiers and veterans, which would allow investigations into injuries and deaths due to the psychiatric drugs they were on.

Baughman’s own investigation into the “unexplained” deaths in 2008 of four West Virginia vets, all in their 20s, who died in their sleep, found that all were on the same drug cocktail for PTSD: Seroquel (antipsychotic), Paxil (antidepressant) and Klonopin (benzodiazepine).  All appeared normal when they went to sleep.  There were no signs of suicide.

Baughman concluded the vets did not commit suicide or overdose leading to coma, as claimed by the military, but were sudden cardiac deaths due to the prescription antipsychotics and antidepressants they were on.

 “I call on the DoD, VA, House and Senate Armed Services, and House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to tell concerned Americans and the families of fallen heroes what psychiatric drugs each of the deceased, both combat and non-combat, soldiers and veterans were on,” said Baughman. “It is time for the military and government to come clean.”

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue psychiatric drugs is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by psychiatric drugs prescribed by military doctors, you can contact us privately by clicking here  or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article below.

 

Suspect in Douglas County Murders Was On Drugs for PTSD

Part of the ongoing series: Killers On Psych Drugs –
Psych-Drugged Accused Or Convicted Killers
.

A  murder suspect who admitted slashing and shooting two people to death in Douglas County was taking psychiatric drugs at the time of the murders, according to a report in the Denver Post.

Josiah Sher, 27, had served tours of duty in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq between 2005 and 2009.  After returning, he reportedly was institutionalized for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was treated with psychiatric drugs – most likely antipsychotics, which have been linked to mania and psychosis, especially during withdrawal from them or when the dosage is lowered.

A research study that searched several key databases for studies on withdrawal symptoms concluded that psychotic episodes can be brought on when antipsychotics are stopped or the dosage reduced after long-term use.  (Source: J. Moncrieff, “Does antipsychotic withdrawal provoke psychosis? Review of the literature on rapid onset psychosis (supersensitivity psychosis) and withdrawal-related relapse,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, June 2006.)

(Another recent study found that antipsychotic drugs widely prescribed for PTSD are no more effective than placebos (sugar pills) in treating it.  See “Urgent Message for Colorado and Wyoming Veterans: Antipsychotics Are Ineffective Against PTSD.”)

Less than three weeks before the February 23 murders, Sher was apparently also suicidal and had called a suicide hotline.  Whether he was prescribed antidepressants as part of his treatment before or after that incident is not known.  Antidepressants have been linked to violence.

Research studies, warnings from international regulatory authorities, and reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the harmful side effects of antipsychotics and other psych drugs can be accessed through CCHR International’s psychiatric drug side effects search engine.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue antipsychotics (or other psychiatric drugs) is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a competent medical doctor.

If you or someone you know has experienced harmful side effects from an antipsychotic drug, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article below.

Urgent Message for Colorado and Wyoming Veterans: Antipsychotics Are Ineffective Against PTSD

Known Side Effects Of The Drugs Include Diabetes, Stroke and Sudden Death

First, antidepressants were found to be no more reliably effective than sugar pills.  (See: “Review of Studies Finds Antidepressants Not Reliably Better Than Sugar Pills”)

Now comes the news that the same thing can be said about antipsychotics in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to a report in the New York Times, a new study found that antipsychotic drugs widely prescribed for PTSD are no more effective than placebos (sugar pills).

The finding comes from the largest study of its kind in veterans, and directly and immediately challenges the drug treatment of returning military personnel.

The use of antipsychotics to treat stress in veterans has increased sharply over the past decade.  But the new study showed that after six months of treatment, veterans taking antipsychotics were doing no better than veterans given a placebo.

Worse still, antipsychotics have serious side effects, including obesity, diabetes, cognitive decline, heart problems, stroke, and sudden death.  (Adverse reactions to psychiatric drugs, as detailed in research studies, warnings from international regulatory authorities and reports to the FDA, can be accessed through CCHR International’s psychiatric drug side effects search engine.)

The new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, focused on Risperdal, but experts said the same results most likely apply to other antipsychotics, including Seroquel, Geodon and Abilify.

Dr. Charles Hoge, a senior scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said about the study: “It’s very rigorously done, and it definitely calls into question the use of antipsychotics in general for PTSD.”

Veterans currently taking antipsychotics are cautioned against suddenly discontinuing them.  No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and supervision of a competent medical doctor.

If you or someone you know has been wrongly put on antipsychotics, we want to talk to you.  You can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article below.

State Psychiatric Facilities Abuse Emergency Drugging

State Audit Finds Lack of Documentation Supporting Involuntary Drugging Of Patients

Patients in the state psychiatric facilities at Pueblo and Fort Logan were drugged against their will without sufficient documentation to justify the action, according to an audit report just released by the Colorado Office of the State Auditor.

The review of some patient files at the Colorado Mental Health Institutes at Pueblo and Fort Logan found that a number of them “lacked sufficient clinical documentation to substantiate that a psychiatric emergency existed warranting an emergency medication order.”

Additionally, the audit uncovered patients whose legal rights were violated when they were involuntarily drugged on a claimed emergency basis for more than 72 hours without the proper documentation of a second opinion and/or a written request for a court hearing, as required by state law.

The report further criticized the psychiatric institutions for lacking documentation to substantiate that the condition of patients warranted psychiatrists’ petitions to courts for, or their continued use of, court-ordered involuntary drugging.

Some patients’ current medications were not discontinued before they were involuntarily drugged on a claimed emergency basis, which resulted in patients having two sets of drugging orders in effect at the same time, with an increased risk to them of serious side effects.

Significantly Higher Error Rates in Administering Drugs

Average error rates in administering drugs in 2010 were significantly higher at the Institutes than the average rate for a comparable peer group of facilities.  Specifically, Fort Logan averaged 4.50 errors per 100 drugging episodes, and Pueblo 4.93, as compared to an average of 2.71 in facilities in the peer group.

Further, there were cases in which the psychiatrist ordered two or three psychiatric drugs, including antipsychotics, on an as-needed basis for the same condition without sufficient documentation substantiating the need for multiple medications.

According to the report, several patients were found to have been put on the drug clozapine, an antipsychotic that has a potentially life-threatening side effect, without clear and sufficient documentation that less risky treatments had been tried first.

The psychiatric institutions also failed to do recommended medical follow-up on a number of patients to test for the dangerous side effects of certain antipsychotic drugs, such as the metabolic monitoring recommended by the American Diabetes Association for patients on certain antipsychotic drugs with well-known links to the onset of diabetes.

The facilities were found to have inconsistent guidelines and monitoring protocols for administering high-risk drugs, and in some cases, established guidelines were not followed.

The full audit report, “Psychiatric Medication Practices for Adult Civil Patients, Colorado Mental Health Institutes,” is posted in the June 2011 reports of the Office of the State Auditor.

If you or someone you know has experience with the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo or Fort Logan, we want to talk to you.  Please contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept strictly confidential.  We also welcome your comments below.

 

Antipsychotic Drugs Dangerously Used In Nursing Homes

Risk Of Potentially Deadly Side Effects For Dementia Patients

An investigation by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that nursing homes are giving many elderly residents powerful antipsychotic drugs that put their lives at risk, according to a new report.

The report was critical of the widespread use of atypical (second-generation) antipsychotics with patients with dementia.  In 2005 the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory, warning that atypical antipsychotic drugs increase the risk of death in elderly patients with dementia.

Yet the recent investigation found that 88% of the Medicare claims in 2007 for atypical antipsychotics were for individuals with dementia.

In a statement accompanying the report, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson faulted drug companies for aggressively and illegally marketing these drugs to doctors for treatment of dementia and other off-label uses.  It also held the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services responsible for failing to properly monitor the use of the drugs.

The Inspector General notes that the many financial payments the drug companies have made in settling lawsuits  against them for illegal marketing practices do not make up for the risks to which nursing home residents have been exposed.  “Money can’t make up for years of corporate campaigns that market drugs with questionable benefits and potentially deadly side effect for vulnerable, elderly patients,” he said.

With 210 nursing homes and convalescent facilities listed for Colorado in the www.medicare.gov database, and 38 listed for Wyoming, the number of the elderly exposed to the dangers of antipsychotics in our region is of great concern.

If someone you know has been wrongly drugged with antipsychotics or other psychiatric drugs in a nursing home, you can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We also welcome your comments below.

For more information about the dangers to the elderly of antipsychotics and other classes of psychiatric drugs, and about how psychiatric drugs are used as chemical restraints on the elderly in nursing homes, click here.

Psychiatry’s All-Out Assault On The U.S. Military: The Unprecedented Rate Of Military Suicides Parallels Troops’ Use Of Psychiatric Drugs

More U.S. military personnel than ever before are taking psychiatric drugs that are linked to suicides.  And more of them than ever before are killing themselves.

In fact, more troops are dying by their own hand than in combat, according to an Army report issued last July, entitled “Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention.” What’s more, a full 36% of the reported suicides were by troops who had never been deployed.

In looking for causes of these suicides, the Army report considered the economy, the stress of nine years of war, family dislocations, repeated moves, repeated deployments, troops’ risk-taking personalities, waived entrance standards, and many aspects of Army culture.  What it barely considered are the antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-seizure drugs, with their known links to suicide, whose increase in use exactly parallels the increase in U.S. troop suicides since 2005.

According to a 2008 investigative report in Time magazine entitled “America’s Medicated Army,” about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan were taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills. These psychiatric drugs carry warnings of the increased risk of suicide.

It is no surprise, then, that the Time article reported that nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 took mind-altering psychiatric drugs — overwhelmingly, the newer class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac and Zoloft.

“The high percentage of U.S. soldiers attempting suicide after taking SSRIs should raise serious concerns,” says Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The practice of prescribing numerous drugs simultaneously, known as polypharmacy, also increases the risk of death.  The Army’s own internal review of fatalities at its most closely supervised medical units, the Warrior Transition Units (WTU), concluded that the biggest risk factor to those patients may be polypharmacy.

WTUs were supposed to be restful havens, where injured soldiers could recuperate from physical and mental trauma.  Thirty-two such units were created in the aftermath of the scandals about substandard care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  These transition units serve about 7,200 soldiers, with nearly 500 soldiers at the WTU at Fort Carson, just south of Colorado Springs.

Army Spec. Michael Crawford sought treatment at Fort Carson’s WTU upon his return from Iraq, where he had suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched members of his platoon burn to death.  He was prescribed a laundry list of drugs for anxiety, nightmares, depression and headaches that made him feel listless and disoriented.  Several months later, he attempted suicide.  In a scathing front-page New York Times article about the WTUs in April 2010, Crawford is quoted as saying, “It is just a dark place. Being in the WTU is worse than being in Iraq.”  The Times reported that at least four soldiers in Fort Carson’s WTU had committed suicide since 2007, the most of any WTU.

Undiagnosed brain injuries could also contribute to the unprecedented level of suicides.  A soldier with an undiagnosed brain injury can have the mental symptoms of his injury misdiagnosed as mental illness and treated with psychiatric drugs, which are linked to suicides.

Officially, the military says about 150,000 soldiers have suffered some form of brain injury since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.  But a 2008 Rand study suggests the toll is much higher, perhaps more than 400,000 troops.  The most common type are mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions.  Studies show that between 5% and 15% of those suffering concussions may suffer long-term physical and mental problems.

A joint NPR and ProPublica investigation into how the military handles brain injuries focused on Fort Carson.  In results published last June in an article entitled “Military Still Failing to Diagnose, Treat Brain Injuries,” as many as 40% of Fort Carson soldiers were found under more thorough examination to have mild brain injuries that were missed during the Army’s post-deployment health assessment.  As a result, some received psychiatric drugs for their mental symptoms instead of proper rehabilitative therapy for their brain injuries.

The Army has launched a three-year, $17 million study into more effective suicide assessment and prevention for those who serve in the military.  We strongly urge them to start with an investigation of the psychiatric drugs being prescribed to our troops.

It’s the drugs, stupid!

If you or someone you know was misdiagnosed with a mental disorder instead of a brain injury or has been harmed by psychiatric drugs, you can contact us privately by clicking here or by calling 303-789-5225.  All information will be kept in the strictest confidence.  We welcome your comments on this article below.

Colorado Medicaid Doctor Prescribes a Whopping $1.1 Million of Antipsychotic Drugs in Just 2008 and 2009 Alone

Colorado’s top Medicaid prescriber of drugs at the center of a U.S. senator’s probe into fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicaid system billed nearly $1.1 million in 2008 and 2009 for 1,304 prescriptions written on four expensive antipsychotic drugs, according to data obtained by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Colorado.

The high-prescribing doctor was identified only by the prescriber identifier number 1093800559 in data compiled by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (CDHCPF) in response to a request from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicaid and Medicare.

In April the senator requested 2008 and 2009 data from all 50 state Medicaid agencies on the top 10 Medicaid prescribers for each of six antipsychotic and two narcotic drugs, citing his concern they are being overprescribed at great cost to the publicly-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs.  Following his review of the data, Grassley called for a federal investigation.

Collectively Colorado’s top 10 Medicaid prescribers of the six antipsychotic drugs in question billed Medicaid a total of $8,172,649 over the two-year period, billing $3,045,015 in 2008 and $5,127,634 in 2009 for a 68 percent increase.

Colorado taxpayers have good reason to be concerned not only about the mushrooming cost of expensive antipsychotic drugs prescribed by Medicaid psychiatrists, but also the medical costs of the physical damage these drugs can cause to the Medicaid patients taking them.

The ages of the patients for whom the prescriptions were written were not part of the released data, so it is not known whether the huge jump in prescriptions in Colorado reflects the growing nationwide trend of putting children on antipsychotics, especially poor children.  A Rutgers University study last year found that children from low-income families, like those on Medicaid, were four times as likely as the privately insured to be put on antipsychotic drugs.

Drug studies of newer antipsychotics have found they can cause serious side effects in children, including diabetes, obesity, elevated cholesterol, seizures and strokes.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “a marketing juggernaut…has made antipsychotics the nation’s top-selling class of drugs by revenue, $14.6 billion last year, with prominent promotions aimed at children.”

Because none of Colorado’s top Medicaid antipsychotic prescribers is identified by name in the CDHCPF data, it is not possible to track any financial ties they might have with the pharmaceutical companies that make these drugs, which could lead to a higher use of the drugs and a higher cost to the Medicaid program without benefiting patients.

Recently enacted national health care reform will require pharmaceutical companies to disclose payments to doctors beginning in 2013.  In the meantime Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer, makers of two of the antipsychotic drugs targeted by Sen. Grassley, must already disclose their payments to doctors as part of agreements reached with the U.S. Department of Justice.

With Colorado already facing what the governor’s office estimates as  a $262 million general-fund shortfall for the current 2010-11 budget and facing another $1 billion shortfall in the 2011-12 budget year, details of the number and cost of prescriptions for antipsychotic and other psychiatric in the publicly-funded Medicaid program over the past 10 years should be made public, with a special focus on the increase in the number and cost of prescriptions written on antipsychotics for children.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by taking antipsychotic drugs and you want to talk about it, we want to talk to you.  Email us or call 303-789-5225. All inquiries and communication will be handled in strictest confidence. We will take action.