Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Prevent Legal Psychiatric Abuse

I recently came across this article by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Of course, she is plugging a book on her website, but the advice for battered and abused women is good.

It doesn’t take long in this field to stumble upon a causality of the legal psychiatric system. If you are a battered woman or work with domestic abuse survivors, then you, too, know the incidence of abuse by psychiatric labeling to this vulnerable group of people.

Who Is Crazy?


From the moment she asserts her truth that she is “the abused,” the psychological abuse begins. She is told, “It’s all in your head.” “You’re out of your mind.” “You’re crazy!”

Then, as she ventures out into the world for support and validation of her crippling relationship circumstances, another wave of psychological insult is upon her. She can be told by the very mental health professional she sought comfort from that she is a borderline personality disorder or has a severe mood disorder.

Then, if children are involved, she could even have Munchausen by Proxy. Whatever it takes to just get a label on this ranting, whining woman. But, is she really crazy? Does she really have a psychiatric disorder? Or, are these psychiatric labels used to contain, discredit and silence the alleged domestic violence?

The Psychiatric Rape and Incarceration of Battered Women


Battered women have been institutionalized in psychiatric hospitals for decades. It’s the tried and true means to silence the abuse to her and save face for her abusive partner or former partner.

When the label doesn’t do it in and of itself, more stringent measures are taken to impose psychiatric confinement to the battered woman. She could be picked up by the police and escorted into a 72-hour psychiatric hold for “evaluation.”

We have seen women parked in mental institutions just because their abusive partners claim they belong there. The saddest cases I see are the women who are in and out of psychiatric hospitals over and over again for a span of years.

These women can be subjected to psychotropic medications, solitary confinement, physical restraints and electroshock treatment all in the name of mental health “care.” In many cases, they can emerge from the psychiatric system unrecognizable to their family and former friends.

Often, when they do return to their lives, they discover they have no family or friends. It is not uncommon for their former abusive partners to engage the support of the victim's immediate family to carry out the psychological abuse toward them.

How to Prevent Legal Psychiatric Abuse


The answer to “How to Prevent Legal Psychiatric Abuse” rests in the statement/question. The operative word is “prevent.” You must be vigilant in your steps to prevent it, because once it starts, it quickly can spiral out of control.

Here are some things you will want to know to help you prevent legal psychiatric abuse.

1) Never subject yourself to a voluntary psychiatric hospitalization unless you yourself are seeking care by doing so.

2) Recognize that a psychiatric residential stay is not required to do a psychological evaluation.

3) Pick your own mental health professional, rather then subjecting yourself to the care of someone chosen by your abusive partner.

4) Give yourself a reality check... Seek the input of an independent professional not entangled in your court case to provide you with psychological care and assessment.

5) Trust your gut even when it offers up mixed signals. Deep in your soul, you know who is really "crazy."


If you are a domestic abuse survivor, you will want to keep your eyes wide open and follow the above pointers while you campaign for your safety and psychological well-being.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Police seek assault charges against 16 Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital employees

A Reported on the Michigan Live website (much more at this link)

Related information here

Assault and battery charges are being sought against 16 employees of the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital accused of abusing patients, according to Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley.

Hadley said the police have turned the case over the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office last week.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carrie Klein said her office now needs to do its own investigation, which won't be completed until after the holidays.

"We have a tremendous amount of material to review," she said. "There's a tremendous amount of video."

She said it's unclear whether the employees could face misdemeanor or felony charges.

"It depends on what we find," she said.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New rules set for ‘boarding’ psychiatric patients by the Department of Social and Health Services in Washington State

As seen in the Spokane Review

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services said it complied with a Friday deadline set by the state Supreme Court to stop “warehousing” mentally ill people in emergency rooms and hospitals just because certified treatment facilities are already full.

[...]

The state had been keeping people in regular hospitals or emergency rooms without treatment while waiting for space to open up. The average length of such stays was about three days, according to the state. The high court struck down that practice, called “psychiatric boarding,” in August. It gave the state until Friday to comply.

[...]

Under rules that took effect Friday, noncertified hospitals that offer a bed for a psychiatric patient must state that they’re willing and able to care for the patient, set up a mental health treatment plan and provide a mental health professional to see the patient daily.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Psychiatrists to go on strike; Police suspect big drug racket and massive illegal operations

Fron the Times of India

After procuring huge amounts of psychotropic pills from Dr Sudha Vasudev's private clinic at Mullanpur Dhaka and her residence at Rishi Nagar in Ludhiana on Saturday, the Jagraon police have said there is a big racket, and there could be other arrests soon.

Meanwhile, functioning of psychiatry OPDs in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Punjab and Chandigarh would be hit on Monday as psychiatrists under Indian Psychiatry Society and Indian Association of Private Psychiatry, Punjab and Chandigarh, have come out in the support of two doctors, arrested by Jagraon police for the illegal sale of psychotropic drugs at their private clinics in Mullanpur Dhaka and Khanna, and have decided to go on a strike on Monday.

"There are not just two doctors. We are getting many other links and it is too complicated. For the time being, we can say that there is a big racket involved, and we are trying to unearth some other important facts. We will disclose it at the right time," said SSP Jagraon, Ravcharan Singh Brar, who raided and arrested Dr Sudha Vasudev, in-charge of a drug de-addiction centre at Mullanpur Dhaka, from a hospital that did not have a licence to run the psychiatry clinic.

It is to be noted that on Saturday, police investigated the residence of Dr Sudha, from where they procured 18,000 more pills and another cache schedule H drugs. "The huge amount of psychotropic drugs and bills show that the company and the doctor had pacts and were doing it for a long time," he added.

According to rules, such drugs are not allowed at the residence of doctors and in private clinics. This is completely illegal, and the search is still on. According to sources, the medicine was Beuprinorphine, which has strong elements to wean addicts from drugs like heroin and smack, but at the same time, it also creates an alternate addiction. Some psychiatrists are still using it. Police said they have also recovered the receipt of Rs70,000 for buying the same drugs from a pharma company in bulk. Previously, on Friday, 3,600 pills were collected from her private clinic.

Presently, Dr Sudha is on two days remand by the orders of the local court, and this may increase as the investigation continues, and layers keep unfolding. She had be charged under three acts - Drugs and Cosmetics Act, NDPS Act for selling illegal psychotropic drugs at a private clinic, and Prevention of Corruption Act for trying to bribe the police to hush up the matter on the spot.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

University of Minnesota bioethicist tests limits of academic freedom while protesting human experimentation

First seen in the Wall Street Journal

A University of Minnesota bioethicist is waging a contentious – some say reckless – campaign over medical research conducted by the school’s psychiatry department in the wake of a controversial death in 2004 of a mentally ill patient, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. In the process, Carl Elliott has alienated some colleagues in his own department and now does most of his work from coffee shops instead of his own office, but he seems more determined than ever to test the limits of academic freedom
Here is a snippet story from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

In the past few years, he has waged a contentious — some would say reckless — campaign against the U’s psychiatry department, which he blames for the 2004 death of a mentally ill patient.

Elliott is convinced that the department’s research is putting patients in danger, and he has used every means at his disposal to spread that message: in national magazines, campus protests, lectures and his sometimes incendiary blog, Fear and Loathing in Bioethics. In one blog entry, he posted an image of Goldy Gopher in a photo montage of serial killers.

University officials have not been amused. They accuse Elliott of whipping up hysteria with “false and unfounded” allegations, and undermining research efforts in the process. And while the university hasn’t tried to fire him, it has reprimanded him for “unprofessional conduct,” a move that he’s now challenging under the tenure code.

By his own account, Elliott has alienated some of his closest colleagues. Within the U’s Center for Bioethics, where he has worked since 1997, he says the tension is so palpable that he dreads setting foot in his office. He does most of his work from coffee shops.

Yet at age 53, Elliott seems more determined than ever to test the limits of academic freedom. “The fact is, I’m totally ashamed of the way the University of Minnesota has behaved,” he said. He believes it’s his job, as a professor, to speak out. “We’re paid to call them as we see them, even if it happens to be uncomfortable for the people who are paying our salaries.”

[...]

Elliott repeated what has become, for him, a familiar refrain: That Markingson, who had schizophrenia, was coerced into an industry-funded drug study over his mother’s objections. And that when he took his own life, the university refused to honestly examine how its own actions and conflicts of interest may have played a role.

“They don’t want to know about Dan Markingson. They don’t want to know whether there have been other Dan Markingsons,” he told the protesters. “What we have to do is make sure that they can’t keep looking away.”

Four protesters, in white lab coats, tried to carry the coffin into the regents’ meeting, but they were stopped at the door. Elliott later posted a photo on his blog with the headline: “Last time: A coffin. Next time, self-immolation?”


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In the first ruling of its kind in China, a Beijing court said that a psychiatric counseling center was in the wrong when it attempted to cure a 30-year-old man of homosexuality with a mix of hypnosis and electric shocks.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal

Many more details at the link

In the first ruling of its kind in China, a Beijing court said on Friday that a psychiatric counseling center was in the wrong when it attempted to cure a 30-year-old man of homosexuality with a mix of hypnosis and electric shocks.

Gay rights activists have said they hoped the lawsuit will help put an end to the practice of “gay conversion” therapy in the country.

“We’re incredibly happy,” said Yang Teng, the plaintiff in the case. Mr. Yang earlier told China Real Time (which previously quoted him using the pseudonym Xiao Zhen) that staff at a clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing told him they could cure his homosexuality, then put him in a state of light hypnosis and shocked him with electrodes every time he thought of gay sex.

The decision by the Haidian District Court in northern Beijing ends weeks of tension after the court missed a deadline to issue a ruling in the case. The presiding judge, Wang Chenghong, couldn’t be reached on Friday. The Beijing High People’s Court, which is responsible for handling questions from foreign media, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Yang said the court had ordered the clinic, Chongqing Jinyu Piaoxiang, to pay him 3,500 yuan ($563) in compensation. It also required the clinic to post an apology for offering the treatment on the front page of its website for 48 hours and ordered an investigation whether the clinic’s license was valid.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Deadline upcoming in Lawsuit for Investors in Psychiatric Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: PSYS)

As seen on GroundReport.com

The Shareholders Foundation announces that a deadline is coming up on February 2, 2015 in the settlement reached in the securities class action lawsuit filed on behalf of investors who purchased shares of Psychiatric Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: PSYS) between February 21, 2008 to February 25, 2009.

Investors who purchased a significant amount of shares of Psychiatric Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: PSYS) between February 21, 2008 to February 25, 2009, have certain options and should contact the Shareholders Foundation at mail@shareholdersfoundation.com or call +1(858) 779 – 1554.

The settlement proof of claim form or detailed settlement notice for the settlement in the Psychiatric Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: PSYS) Investor Securities Class Action Lawsuit can be downloaded at: http://shareholdersfoundation.com/case/psychiatric-solutions-inc-nasdaq-psys-investor-securities-class-action-lawsuit-09212009

In order to submit a claim an investor has to submit the claim proof to the class action claim administrator in a timely manner. The deadline to submit the proof with the class administrator is February 2, 2015. The class action administrator for this case is Gilardi & Co, LLC.

The lawsuit was originally filed in in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee against Psychiatric Solutions Inc over alleged violations of Federal Securities Laws in connection with certain allegedly false and misleading statements made between February 21, 2008 and February 25, 2009.

According to the complaint the plaintiff alleges that Psychiatric Solutions Inc and certain of its officers and directors violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by issuing between February 21, 2008 and February 25, 2009, materially false and misleading statements concerning Psychiatric Solutions Inc safeguards and controls over its operations, including at its Riveredge Hospital facility.

The plaintiff accuses that the defendants downplayed incidents at Psychiatric Solutions Inc facilities, indicating that the deficiencies had all been resolved and that defendants assured investors that corrective actions had already been taken at its facilities to improve the quality, safety and risk management. The plaintiff claims that as a result of defendants’ false and misleading statements, Psychiatric Solutions Inc stock (NASDAQ: PSYS) traded at artificially inflated prices between February 21, 2008 and February 25, 2009. On July 17, 2008, the Chicago Tribune issued an investigative report which disclosed unreported violence among juvenile patients at Psychiatric Solutions Inc’s Riveredge Hospital facility.

As a result of the Chicago Tribune’s investigation, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services placed a hold on admitting youths in the custody of the state to Riveredge Hospital. As a further result, the Department of Justice initiated an investigation into the facility and its operations, so the lawsuit. Then, on February 25, 2009, Psychiatric Solutions Inc announced the fourth quarter and year-end financial results due. Psychiatric Solutions Inc missed its 2008 income guidance from continuing operations of $2.02 to $2.03 per diluted share, instead reporting $1.92 per diluted share. The guidance miss was based upon the problems at Psychiatric Solutions Inc’s Riveredge Hospital facility, including the effect of the continuing hold at the facility by Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, additional charges related to the investigation and an increase in Psychiatric Solutions general and professional liability reserves, so the lawsuit.

Psychiatric Solutions Inc, located in Franklin, TN, is a provider of inpatient behavioral healthcare services in the United States. The Company operates 95 inpatient behavioral healthcare facilities with approximately 10,000 beds in 31 states, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. Psychiatric Solutions Inc reported in 2007 Total Revenue of $1.46068 billion with a Net Income of $76.21 million and in 2008 Total Revenue of $1.7659 billion with a Net Income of $107.88 million. Shares of Psychiatric Solutions traded recently at $29.63 per share and were down from a 52 week High of $40.90 per share and almost $42 per share in 2007.

On November 15, 2010 Psychiatric Solutions Inc was acquired by Universal Health Services Inc.

Those who purchased shares of Psychiatric Solutions Inc (NASDAQ: PSYS) have certain options and should contact the Shareholders Foundation.

Contact:

Shareholders Foundation, Inc.
Michael Daniels
3111 Camino Del Rio North – Suite 423
92108 San Diego
Phone: +1-(858)-779-1554
Fax: +1-(858)-605-5739
mail@shareholdersfoundation.com

East House Receives Grants To Help Former Rochester Psych Patients

From this short report on WXXI of Rochester NY.

East House, a local organization that provides services for adults in recovery from substance abuse and mental health disorders, has been awarded more than $500,000 in two state grants. The money will help people who are no longer being served by the Rochester Psychiatric Center and other inpatient psychiatric units.

The grants, administered through the Monroe County Office of Mental Health, will provide services to 116 people in a six-county area including Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties.
Of note is prospect that the Rochester Psychiatric Center is offloading these clientele because they will be accepting more patients
Some neighbors in the Upper Mount Hope area are expressing concern over the recently announced proposed changes to the Rochester Psychiatric Center. A spokesperson for the New York State Office of Mental Health confirmed to 13WHAM News that it plans to add 29 forensic beds to the building on Elmwood Avenue.
The facility was recently in the news because of the murder of a patient

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lawsuit: Family of man who died at Oregon psychiatric hospital says retaliation caused death

As reported in the Statesman Journal

You can read the lawsuit filing at this link

Sounds like people tried to cover things up, and retaliated when these efforts failed

The family of a man who died in Oregon State Hospital early this year is suing the State of Oregon, alleging Chris Crawford's death was the direct result of hospital staff retaliating when he alerted police and the media to patient sexual abuse in the hospital.

Crawford died on Jan. 3, and the state has never released any information related to his death, in spite of investigations by the Oregon State Police, Marion County Medical Examiner and Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations.

The tort claim was filed Dec. 5 by Dennis Steinman of Kell, Alterman & Runstein, LLP in Portland, on behalf of Crawford's sister, Lisa Feehely.

It alleges the following:

Crawford, 48, discovered in August 2013 that a hospital nurse was having sex with a patient, which is illegal. He reported the relationship to two hospital supervisors, who told him "they were aware of the relationship and that (he) should keep the information confidential."

He disagreed with that direction and instead told the Oregon State Police, the Statesman Journal and the Oregonian.

In October 2013, staff changed Crawford's living arrangements. He had been living on a ward where patients were granted a fair amount of independence and where he was not expected to take much medication. He always took some to treat his bipolar disorder, but the dose was minimal.

Staff moved him to a different ward, where he was watched by a staff member who never left his side. He was given far more medication, which "put him in a state of near-constant sedation."

He died three months later, after telling friends and family he feared for his life. The toxicology report that followed showed at least eight distinct medications in his system.

"(Oregon State Hospital) and its agents owed a duty to Mr. Crawford to keep him safe from harm," Steinman wrote. "Instead, OSH retaliated against Mr. Crawford because he had reported unlawful conduct of an OSH employee to the media. In doing so, OSH subjected Mr. Crawford to an unnecessary and destructive medication regimen that significantly impaired his quality of life and led to his untimely death. ... OSH's employees were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Crawford's rights and their actions were a substantial factor in his death."

The claim includes allegations of wrongful death, violations of whistle-blower laws and violations of Crawford's constitutional rights.

Public records later showed Crawford had been correct about Jennifer Barren, the nurse he claimed was sleeping with a patient. She resigned from the hospital on August 13, 2013, and the Oregon State Police closed its investigation on Sept. 13.

The state issued its own report, which found Barren had sexually abused a male patient for as many as two years.

The report said Barren and the patient were caught on a security camera six times going into a linen closet. It also found that the relationship apparently continued after Barren had resigned and the investigation was underway. Phone records showed Barren and the patient spoke on the phone at least 110 times, for a total of 113 hours, between Nov. 8 and Nov. 24.

The report was not released publicly until March 2014, two months after Crawford died.

Crawford was admitted to the hospital in 1992, when he was 27, after being found guilty except for insanity on one count each of burglary, attempted rape and sex abuse in the first degree.

Court records show he was convicted on felony escape charges twice during his time at the hospital, once in 1999 and once in 2003.

However, Steinman said Crawford was a "very high functioning patient" for nearly all his time in the hospital and he had participated in many programs and activities, enjoying a fairly high level of freedom.

Hospital spokeswoman Rebeka Gipson-King said the hospital would not comment on the tort claim. The hospital has not released Crawford's autopsy or the state investigation into his death.

[BOOK] Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock, and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex

Renowned psychiatrist Peter Breggin documents how psychiatric drugs and electroshock (ECT) disable the brain. He presents the latest scientific information on potential brain dysfunction and dangerous behavioral abnormalities produced by the most widely used drugs including Prozac, Xanax, Halcion, Ritalin, and lithium. Even though this book was published a few years ago, it is still a highly relevant and import work

Many of Breggin's earlier findings have improved clinical practice, led to legal victories against drug companies, and resulted in FDA-mandated changes in what the manufacturers must admit about their drugs. This greatly expanded second edition, supported by the latest evidence-based research, shows that psychiatric drugs achieve their primary or essential effect by causing brain dysfunction, and they tend to do far more harm than good.

Author's website

Available through Amazon.com here.

Author's description of the book:

"For those who have been following my work or who wish an introduction to my lifetime reform efforts and scientific investigations in the field of psychiatry, the newly published second edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex (Springer Publishing Company, 2008) has recently been published. It is a thorough and up-to-date presentation of my overall critique of modern psychiatry, including the latest medications and treatments.

"The new edition describes general principles for the safe withdrawal from psychiatric drugs with specific examples of withdrawal problems related to each type of psychiatric medication, including antidepressants, tranquilizers, stimulants, mood stabilizers and neuroleptic (antipsychotic) drugs. For interested professionals, patients and clients, it presents guidelines for how to conduct psychotherapy and counseling without resort to psychiatric drugs, even for the most emotionally distressed people.

"The new edition of the book presents evidence confirming many of the first edition’s most controversial conclusions. Research continues to demonstrate that antidepressants are ineffective in treating depression and instead increase the risk of suicidality. As another example, additional studies have shown that stimulants offer no long-term positive effects on the behavior of children and that these drugs suppress growth and make children prone to cocaine abuse as young adults. Recent reports continue to confirm that electroshock causes permanent brain damage and cognitive dysfunction.

"The scientific premise of the book is that all psychiatric treatments—drugs, electroshock and lobotomy—have their 'therapeutic' impact by disabling the brain. They do not improve brain function or correct biochemical imbalances, they cause brain dysfunction and biochemical imbalances. These brain-disabling interventions are then considered effective when the doctor, family, patient or society views impaired brain dysfunction in the target individuals as a desirable or beneficial effect. Because psychiatric drugs in reality do more harm than good, the psychopharmaceutical complex must devote billions of dollars to exerting its power and influence in the political, professional and public arenas.

"'Antipsychotic' drugs such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Geodon are used literally to chemically lobotomize millions of adults and children because the resulting apathy and indifference are seen as an improvement over their previously distressed and distressing state of mind or behavior. Millions more adults take 'tranquilizers' like Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin and Valium, suppressing their overall brain function in order to reduce feelings of anxiety. A large percentage of our nation’s children have their spontaneity reduced or even crushed by stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall and Strattera, causing them to become more docile and more obsessively attentive to rote work.

"Despite all the propaganda, antidepressants such Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Cymbalta have no scientifically demonstrable effectiveness and are proven to cause suicidality, as well as violence and mania. They too 'work' by causing mental disabilities such as apathy and euphoria that are misinterpreted as improvements. Meanwhile, their continued widespread use is determined in part by the fact that withdrawal produces severe psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety and depression. In short, it is too difficult and painful for people to stop taking them.

"All psychiatric drugs have the potential to cause withdrawal reactions, including the antidepressants, stimulants, tranquilizers, antipsychotic drugs and 'mood stabilizers' such lithium. When the individual’s condition grows markedly worse within days or weeks of stopping the psychiatric drug, this is almost always due to a withdrawal reaction. However, misinformed doctors and misled parents, teachers and patients think that this is evidence that the individual 'needs' the drug even more, when in fact he or she needs time to recover from withdrawal effects.

"People commonly use alcohol, marijuana and other non-prescription drugs to dull their feelings. Usually they do not fool themselves into believing they are somehow improving the function of their minds and brains. Yet when people take psychiatric drugs, they almost always do so without realizing that the drugs “work” by disrupting brain function, that the drugs cause withdrawal effects, and that they frequently result in dangerous and destructive mental reactions and behaviors.

"Most consumers of psychiatric drugs do not realize how much these chemical agents disrupt the function of the brain and mind. As a result, their treatment in effect becomes involuntary. Many other adults are physically forced to these drugs in hospitals and even under outpatient commitment that allows for enforced drugging in the home. Because children cannot control their lives, or understand the implications of taking drugs, they are always involuntary participants in these brain-disabling treatments. Our society needs to stop forcing psychoactive drugs on its citizens, young and old.

"Electroshock provides a more obvious illustration of the brain-disabling effects of psychiatric treatment. Shock treatment is simply closed-head injury caused by an overwhelming current of electricity sufficient to cause a grand mal seizure. When the patient becomes apathetic, the doctor writes in the hospital chart, 'No longer complaining.' When the patient displays the euphoria commonly associated brain damage, the doctor writes, 'mood improved.' Meanwhile, the individual’s brain and mind are so drastically injured that he or she is rendered unable to protest. They are easily led to take repeated shock treatments. In many cases, family members must intervene to stop the destructive 'treatment.'

"The brain-disabling principle of psychiatric treatment is not a speculation. It is a solid scientific theory based on hundreds of evidence-based reports, clinical experience, and common sense observations. I believe it will stand the test of time."

"The new edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry introduces the concept of medication spellbinding—the capacity of psychoactive drugs to blunt the individual’s appreciation of drug-induced mental dysfunction and, at times, to encourage a misperception that they are doing better than ever when they are, in fact, doing worse than ever. In the extreme, medication spellbinding drives individuals into bizarre, out-of-character destructive actions, including suicide and violence. Medication spellbinding is an aspect of the brain-disabling principle that explains why so many individuals take drugs of all kinds, from antidepressants to alcohol, when they are causing them great harm and even destroying their lives.

"The power of the psychopharmaceutical complex, a concept that I introduced in 1991 in Toxic Psychiatry, has now received confirmation from innumerable books by disenchanted members of the medical establishment. The new edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry reviews some of these other books and articles, and presents details about how the drug companies continue to rule the world of psychiatry; they control research and journal publications, dominate medical education, collaborate with insurance companies and federal agencies, and finance organized psychiatry and medicine.

"This new edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry has a long history, originating in the 1983 publication of Psychiatric Drugs: Hazards to the Brain and then evolving into the initial 1997 edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry. The concepts and information—contained 16 detailed chapters and 85 pages of scientific bibliography—provide a mountain of information about what’s wrong with modern psychiatry and what’s needed to correct it."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Former psychiatrist Francis Bostock ordered to pay damages to patient he abused

As reported in The Age

A former Melbourne psychiatrist who had sex with a patient for years and billed Medicare $16,000 for their time together has been ordered to pay the woman nearly $400,000 in damages.

A Supreme Court judge recently heard former Kew psychiatrist Francis Tudor Bostock breached his duty of care by having sex with and sexually assaulting the woman over three-and-a-half years while she had depression.

The patient first sought Dr Bostock's help in 1990 for her mental illness, which other treatments had failed to alleviate.

Dr Bostock initially used psychoanalytical psychotherapy on her with some success, but in 1997, the pair started having sex in his rooms whenever she attended.

While the therapeutic relationship ceased when the sex began, Dr Bostock continued to bill Medicare when she visited his rooms until 1998. In total, Medicare paid him $16,464 for their time together.

The woman visited him up to three times a week until she ended their relationship in 2001. Apart from their sexual relationship, they did not interact or socialise outside of his office.

In her judgment on damages, Associate Justice Melissa Daly said the woman fell in love with Bostock and became obsessed with her therapy and feelings about him.

The woman decided to end their relationship when she learnt about the concept of transference in psychotherapy — the process whereby a therapist, in addressing issues associated with the loss of love from a parent, in effect replaces the role of a parent in a patient's consciousness. This made the woman realise how wrong their relationship was and how Dr Bostock had abused his position of power.

The court heard that during their relationship and for many years afterwards, the woman was consumed by guilt and shame and struggled to work. She became depressed, anxious, untrusting of others and suffered migraines and panic attacks.

In 2005, she started seeing a new psychiatrist, who was angry and appalled by what had happened to her. He told the court that Dr Bostock's sexual relationship with the woman was a major boundary violation that was equivalent to child abuse.

He said the woman was unable to give rational consent to a sexual relationship with Dr Bostock, that his actions "massively damaged" her and had aggravated her mental illness. She now exhibits elements of post traumatic stress disorder and has dreams and flashbacks about him.

In 2010, the woman reported him to the Medical Board. In response, Justice Daly said, Dr Bostock admitted the relationship and agreed to wind up his practice. His registration ceased in early 2011. He was nearly 70 at that time.

While Dr Bostock declared himself bankrupt last year, seven months after the woman issued a writ against him, Justice Daly ordered Dr Bostock to pay the woman $384,029 in damages.

She said Dr Bostock did not file a defence and "as such is taken to have admitted the allegations in the statement of claim".

The woman's lawyer, Slater and Gordon principal Anne Shortall, said her client would pursue compensation when the term of Dr Bostock's bankruptcy ends in 2016.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Michigan's common law recognizes a duty of care to third parties who might foreseeably be harmed by a mental health professional's use of techniques that cause his or her patient to have false memories of sexual abuse.

As seen in this Michigan Appellate Court Decision [PDF]

In this suit for malpractice, plaintiffs L### R###### and J### R###### appeal by right the trial court’s order dismissing their claims against defendant, Kathryn Salmi, LPC, who does business as Salmi Christian Counseling. On appeal, we must determine whether a mental health professional, such as a licensed professional counselor, see MCL 330.1100b(16)(e); 333.18101(b),1 owes a duty of care to third persons who might be harmed by the professional’streatment of his or her patients. Specifically, we must determine whether a mental healthprofessional has a duty to third parties (specifically, a patient’s parents) who might foreseeably be implicated in abuse when the mental health professional treats a patient using techniques that cause his or her patient to have false memories of sexual abuse.

For the reasons more fully explained below, we conclude that Michigan’s common law recognizes a duty of care to third parties who might foreseeably be harmed by the mental health professional’s use of techniques that cause his or her patient to have false memories of sexual abuse. Because the trial court erred when it dismissed Lale and Joan Roberts’ claim on the grounds that Michigan does not recognizesuch a duty, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In 2000, a study was done in which 20 healthy non-depressed volunteers were given the SSRI antidepressant Zoloft (Sertraline). Two weeks into the study two volunteers became dangerously suicidal.

As reported in the Guardian on Sunday 21 May 2000

Much more info at the link

Alarming evidence from a new British study shows that the Prozac class of antidepressants can make healthy men, women and children with no history of depression feel suicidal.

The research undermines the claims of Eli Lilly, makers of Prozac, that people who kill themselves while on the tablets do so because of their depression, and that the disease, not the drug, is to blame for their suicide.

Its findings are particularly worrying because of the increasing numbers of people, including children, who are being given the drugs by their GP for mild depression, and who are not seriously clinically ill.

[...]

It found that two out of 20 healthy volunteers on an antidepressant in the Prozac class called Lustral (or Zoloft in the USA) became dangerously suicidal, compared with none of them when they were put on an antidepressant of a different class called reboxetine.

One 30-year-old woman who took part had a nightmare about having her throat slit after one week and by the end of a fortnight, was suicidal. "She felt hopeless and alone. It seemed that all she could do was to follow a thought that had been planted in her brain from some alien force. She suddenly decided she should go and throw herself in front of a car, that this was the only answer.

"It was as if there was nothing out there apart from the car, which she was going to throw herself under. She didn't think of her partner or child," says the study, published in the journal Primary Care Psychiatry.

Later she completed a diary entry, describing herself as jumpy, anxious and suspicious. "Her mind was racing and spiraling out of control. Then it went blank except for the clear thought that she must kill herself violently by throwing herself beneath a car or a train."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

State deal pledges better care at Bridgewater Hospital after three deaths, and threats of lawsuits

From a report in the Boston Globe

Many more details at the link

An independent monitoring group will open an office inside troubled Bridgewater State Hospital for the next two years to make sure that prison guards and clinicians continue reducing their use of isolation and physical restraints on mentally ill patients, under a deal with the state that averts a lawsuit.

“The agreement guarantees that over the next couple of years, someone will be in there watching, looking at the data, talking to the patients and staff, and really trying to make sure that people are treated appropriately as patients and not as prisoners,” Christine M. Griffin, the executive director of the federally funded Disability Law Center, which reached the agreement with the Patrick administration, said Tuesday.

The center had threatened to sue Massachusetts for what it said were widespread human rights abuses at Bridgewater, where the Globe has identified three deaths in recent years related to the use of restraints to control patients.

Under the agreement worked out over the last five months with Governor Deval Patrick, the center will not sue as long as the state follows through on a host of promises of better care, including a plan to move most of the patients to a proposed facility at an undetermined location to be run by the Department of Mental Health.

[...]

The Disability Law Center launched a six-week, on-site investigation into practices at Bridgewater after a series of stories in the Globe, including a detailed account of the death of Joshua K. Messier, a 23-year-old mental health patient sent to Bridgewater for a psychiatric evaluation who died as guards wrestled him into four-point restraints, cuffing his wrists and ankles to a small bed.

[...]

A more recent Globe story recounted the deaths of two more mental health patients — Bradley Burns and Paul Correia — whose deaths were attributed by the state medical examiner’s office to the use of restraints. Burns was held in five-point restraints for 16 months, 23 hours a day, before he died of a heart arrhythmia.

Under the agreement with the Disability Law Center, the administration has pledged to discontinue the use of five-point restraints — strapping a patient down by chest, wrists, and ankles — altogether and to revise its official policy on the use of seclusion and restraints by mid-January.

Meanwhile, Bridgewater State Hospital officials have replaced existing restraint beds with larger, more comfortable beds, and cut the overall use of restraints by 86 percent and the use of seclusion by 68 percent, since January, according to the Department of Correction.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mental health professionals 'may have committed war crimes', report says

As reported in the Guardian

Much more at the link

Health professionals who assisted in the CIA’s torture programme of terror suspects “betrayed the most fundamental duty of the healing professions” and may have committed war crimes, according to a hard-hitting report released on Tuesday.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called for a federal commission to investigate the full extent of health professionals’ participation in CIA torture following last week’s release of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the agency’s detention and interrogation programme.

“Under the auspices of the Bush administration, the CIA systematically tortured suspected terrorist detainees, in at least one instance to the point of death. This torture program heavily relied on the participation and active engagement of health professionals to commit, conceal, and attempt to justify these crimes,” PHR concludes.

The report comes days after Dick Cheney, the former US vice president, defended the practices disclosed in the report including “rectal feeding” – arguing the practice was done for medical reasons. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has also claimed that the practice was carried out on medical grounds.

According to PHR, rectal hydration is almost never practiced in medicine because there are more effective methods, and it is never considered as a first option for rehydration or nutritional support. PHR notes that the report indicates that rectal hydration was used to “control and/or punish the detainees ... Insertion of any object into the rectum of an individual without his consent constitutes a form of sexual assault.”

“Rather than reject such brutal practices, medical officers appear to have modified them to increase pain: ‘we used the largest Ewal [sic] tube we had,’ stated one officer in a February 2004 email,” writes PHR.

Dr Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor and an author of the analysis, said Cheney was “either terribly misinformed or propagating a lie. Any reasonable person knows feeding does not take place rectally.”

The report sets out eight areas where doctors, psychologists and physician assistants may have violated “medical and psychological ethics, domestic and international law, and federal research guidelines”:
  • Designing, directing and profiting from the torture program;
  • Intentionally inflicting harm on detainees;
  • Enabling US department of justice lawyers to create a fiction of “safe, legal and effective” interrogation practices;
  • Engaging in torture research that could potentially violate the Nuremberg Code, brought in after World War II to ban “experiments” like those practiced by the Nazis, and could constitute a crime against humanity;
  • Monitoring torture and calibrating the level of pain;
  • Evaluating and treating detainees for the purposes of torture;
  • Conditioning medical care on cooperation with interrogators;
  • Failing to document physical and/or psychological evidence of torture.
The report is especially damning of the work of psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The SSCI described how the pair – given the pseudonyms “Grayson Swigert” (Mitchell) and “Hammond Dunbar” (Jessen) in the report– designed the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) used to interrogate suspects.
Much more at the link

Abilify Is Top-Selling U.S. Drug -- But New Reports Question Long-Term Antipsychotic Use

Part of a much longer report seen in the Huffington Post

The author tries to play fair with both sides, but ends up making a muddle of it.

Last month, the news broke that the anti-psychotic Abilify, thanks in part to direct marketing to consumers for depression, has become the best-selling drug in the United States, raking in roughly $7 billion a year. Yet as Jay Michaelson in The Daily Beast pointed out recently, no one's sure how it may achieve its purported effects as an "augmented" treatment for depression.

The alarms about the dangerous and sometimes deadly side-effects of antipsychotics affecting children and the elderly, among others, have been mounting for years. But only very recently have mainstream health officials in the United States and in Britain started to express concerns about these medications, with limited efforts, for example, to rein in their overuse in nursing homes. At the same time, there's a rethinking underway at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), U.K.'s National Health Service and the British Psychological Society (BPS) over the way clinicians diagnose schizophrenia and treat the illness over the long term with antipsychotics. In late November, for instance, the respected BPS released an updated study, "Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia," that offers a sweeping challenge to conventional thinking and treatments for schizophrenia.

[...]

The rest of us should be concerned about these trends, too. Nearly one in four visits to a psychiatrist for anxiety will lead to a prescription for an antipsychotic, an "off-label" use not approved by the FDA. What's happened is that the risky anti-psychotics originally intended for schizophrenia, then later approved for bipolar disorder, have seen their use extend to bipolar grade-schoolers and adult depressives with the dubious blessing of a pro-Pharma FDA, often based on shaky science. Now about 85 percent of all antipsychotic prescriptions are for "off-label" uses still unapproved by the easygoing FDA, such as anxiety and insomnia.

[...]

The commonly-hyped notion of an imbalance of chemicals -- especially serotonin -- causing depression, for instance, has largely been discredited in recent research. There is no single biological marker yet found for depression or other mental illnesses, but there are enough indicators showing that biology doubtless plays a key role -- although not yet precisely determined or quantified -- in mental illness. These include studies of identical twins; neural imaging studies highlighting malfunctioning brain activity; and research into abnormal brain development. That research has helped to spur a new federal "brain initiative."

[...]

Now, important recent reports reinforce mounting concerns about the long-term use of antipsychotics and the potential benefits of at least considering using lower dosages. Even the director of NIMH, Dr. Tom Insel, citing recent research about long-term outcomes in JAMA Psychiatry and other journals, has raised questions about these medications

Monday, December 15, 2014

Widow sues Prairie St. John's Mental Hospital for husband's death by suicide

As reported on the InForum Website

A Fargo widow is suing the mental health hospital here where her husband’s body was discovered after he hanged himself hours after being admitted in April, alleging the hospital was negligent in failing to monitor him.

Jennifer Waagen filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Cass County District Court against Prairie St. John’s Psychiatric Hospital.

Scott Waagen used a bed sheet fastened over the top of the bathroom door to try to hang himself. He was found by a psychiatric technician April 26 and died a week later at Sanford Medical Center.

He left behind his wife and three young daughters, all under 8 years old.

Jennifer Waagen’s lawsuit states her husband was admitted to Prairie St. John’s about 13 hours earlier for continuous surveillance after being diagnosed with a brief psychotic disorder.

The lawsuit accuses Prairie St. John’s of being negligent in failing to document and complete accurate assessments of Scott Waagen, and for failing to watch him and prevent his death by hanging.

Lawyers for Prairie St. John’s filed a response to the lawsuit stating no one at the facility was negligent in caring for Waagen, and that his suicide attempt was not reasonably foreseeable.

Instead, as a suicide victim, Waagen’s death was his own fault, the answer states.

Both sides have explored alternative dispute resolution, according to court documents filed with the case.

Jennifer Waagen is asking for at least $50,000 in economic and non-economic damages.
Another case where the shrinks screwed up, and then blame the patient.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rochester man charged with criminally negligent homicide in Psych Center assault death

As reoirted in the Watertown Daily News

Many more details at the link

A Rochester man has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after being accused of assaulting a fellow St. Lawrence County Psychiatric Center patient who later died as a result of his injuries.

Jose D. Miranda, 64, a patient of the Rochester Psychiatric Center, 1111 Elmwood Ave, was arrested Tuesday by detectives on a sealed St. Lawrence County Court indictment, according to a news release from Ogdensburg police.

Miranda was then transported to St. Lawrence County Court, Canton, and arraigned before Judge Jerome J. Richards on one count of criminally negligent homicide, a felony.

At arraignment, he was ordered held without bail and sent to the St. Lawrence County jail, Canton.

Officers of the Ogdensburg Police Department Criminal Investigations Unit allege the victim, Robert D. Harrienger II, 58, a native of Adams, was assaulted by Mr. Miranda about 6 p.m. May 12 at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center’s Trinity Building.

Mr. Harrienger was transported by the Ogdensburg Rescue Squad to the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center to be treated for head injuries. Due to the extent of his injuries and his condition, Mr. Harrienger later was transferred to Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, where he died several hours later.

An autopsy performed by the Onondaga County medical examiner’s office ruled the cause of death to be homicide.

Mr. Harrienger’s obituary said he was a general laborer in the garage of the psychiatric center for 20 years until retiring because of disability.

Miranda was a patient at the center. After the assault, he was transferred to a state psychiatric center in Marcy.

His arrest was a result of a lengthy investigation. During the investigation, he remained in state custody under psychiatric care.

Miranda, originally of the Bronx, has a long history of violent crimes, including a manslaughter conviction in 1972
You would expect that hospitals would be safe places for people, not a place where you take your life in your hands.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet the Psychologists Who Helped the CIA Torture People

As Seen in New York Magazine

Read Much More at the Link

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page executive summary of its report on the CIA’s torture program offers some horrifying details about U.S. treatment of detainees captured in the post-9/11 years. It also highlights and adds some details about the important role two psychologists had in both developing the “enhanced interrogation” program and carrying it out.

Within the report, the duo in question are referred to with the pseudonyms "Grayson Swigert" and "Hammond Dunbar." But both the New York Times and NBC News have identified them as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who have been previously singled out for their roles in developing and legitimizing the torture program.

Both men came from an Air Force background, where they worked on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program in which military personnel are trained to resist enemy questioning by enduring oftentimes brutal mock interrogations. Beyond that, though, they seemed otherwise poorly suited for the task of interrogating al-Qaeda detainees. “Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator,” the report notes, “nor did either have specialized knowledge of al-Qa'ida, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise.” Despite their lack of experience in these key areas, Mitchell and Jessen “carried out inherently governmental functions, such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees in held in foreign government custody.”

So how did these two men come to play such an outsized role in developing and enacting the CIA’s torture program? Much of the story is captured in a 2009 Times article by Scott Shane. Shane writes that Mitchell, who after retirement “had started a training company called Knowledge Works” to supplement his income, realized that the post-9/11 military would provide business opportunities for those with his kind of experience and started networking with his contacts to seek them out.

[...]

“In 2005,” the Senate report states, “the psychologists formed a company specifically for the purpose of conducting their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program.” And while the company’s contract was terminated in 2009 amid a growing national outcry over government-sanctioned torture, by then Mitchell and Jessen’s years-long relationship with the CIA had already proven extremely profitable.
The CIA paid two ex-military psychologists $81 million to help design and run torture the program

Of course, the Psychologist who made so much money from the program has been speaking out, defending the torture program.

Is This Guy Crazy?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mount Carmel psychiatrist Andrew Newton pleads guilty to Medicare fraud

As reported on NewsItem.com

A Mount Carmel psychiatrist accused of fraudulently billing Medicare for psychotherapy sessions that didn't happen has pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court Nov. 25.

Dr. Andrew Newton, 42, of Harrisburg, the owner-operator of the Newton Psychiatric Clinic, pleaded guilty to six counts of theft or embezzlement in connection with health care in the Nov. 25 court appearance.

Following the plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson ordered a presentence investigation to be completed by Dec. 23, but Newton's attorneys asked for a continuance, which was granted on Dec. 1. The report must be completed and published on or before Jan. 20, 2015.

Authorities alleged Newton billed Medicare for a face-to-face psychotherapy services with patients in Pennsylvania when Newton was out of the country.

The U.S. Government alleged Newton billed Medicare for three patients Aug. 18, 2010, and for patients Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, 2010, when the doctor was in France, and Nov. 29, 2011, when Newton was in England.

Newton "did knowingly and willfully embezzle, steal and convert to his own use" a total of $322.75 from the fraudulent billing, a past release stated.

A plea agreement reached said Newton will plead guilty to all six of the misdemeanor charges, and the government will not bring any other criminal charges related to the offenses, with the exception of criminal tax charges.

In this case, Newton faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison, a term of supervised release following the imprisonment and a fine.

The plea agreement also states that Newton agrees to make full restitution of $20,000, plus $75,000 payable to the Medicare Trust Fund.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Williamsport Office.

Nevada tried to save money by bussing psych patients out of state for treatment

As reported in the Las Vegas Sun

Nevada is shelling out big money to defend itself in a class action lawsuit alleging the Department of Health and Human Services misused public money and jeopardized the lives of nearly 500 mental health patients in what’s known as the Greyhound busing scandal.

The state’s board of examiners will vote today to approve a $400,000 contract extension between Nevada and a California-based law firm Bingham McCutchen to fight claims that mental health patients were discharged from hospitals, ushered onto buses and transported to various cities in California to pass off the cost of treating mental health patients.

The contract highlights the cost the state must endure in and out of the courtroom.

If approved, the contract extension will mean the state has allocated more than $1.9 million to defend itself in the suit, which was filed by the City and County of San Francisco on behalf of more than 50 California towns that were harbors for Nevada mental health patients between 2008 and 2013.

Nevada needs a California-licensed attorney to fight the case in that state, said Jennifer Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. State officials made their case for the expense to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Monday. The committee approved the appropriations, signaling that the board will follow suit.

Court filings show that Nevada has aggressively tried to quash the case since it was first filed in September 2013.

“It was the individuals, and not the Nevada State Defendants, who took the (intervening) steps to reach California and, allegedly, seek additional medical care,” Nevada’s legal counsel wrote about the discharged mental health patients in legal filings.

Court filings also show that Nevada said that the mental health patients made “unilateral” decisions about where to go.

But a trial court and a state court of appeals said San Francisco does have the authority to charge Nevada. Nevada’s legal counsel then appealed to the California Supreme Court, which hasn’t stated whether it will hear the case.

In court filings, a San Francisco County judge painted Nevada as a state trying to save money by shifting costs to California. It said some patients were medicated when they were given bus vouchers and instructions to call emergency rooms, shelters and other treatment facilities when they arrived in California.

Between July 2007 and March 2013, Southern Nevada health officials had a policy to “assist patients” back to their home communities as a way to “remove the burden of treatment from the State of Nevada,” according to legal filings from John Munter, a San Francisco County judge.

The state was having budget problems. The Southern Nevada psychiatric hospital, Rawson-Neal, was consistently filled to capacity and understaffed. There was tremendous pressure to discharge patients, according to Munter’s filings.

Munter also wrote that Nevada “expressly targeted” California to achieve a result that would “impose financial burdens on California communities.”

“At least to some discharged patients, [Nevada] did not give [patients] any meaningful choice other than to go to California or any meaningful options to remain in Nevada,” Munter wrote. “In some instances, defendants gave referrals to medical care and housing facilities in California but not in Nevada, and advice that follow-up care was available in California but not in Nevada.”

The lawsuit alleges that Nevada’s busing practice forced California to misappropriate resources.

It cost the City of San Francisco $4 million to treat 21 Nevada patients who were bused into the state.

Of those 21 patients, more than half had no prior relationship with the state of California, according to court records.

And San Francisco wasn’t alone. Patients popped up in Sacramento and 50 other California cities.

The total cost for the whole state is still unknown.

At home, Nevada has done its best to repair the state’s mental health system.

From 2007 to 2011, the Legislature cut $80 million from the mental health budget.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has made efforts to make up for the losses and the nefarious spotlight that flung to the state when the busing scandal first made headlines. He’s done so alongside Mike Willden, Sandoval’s current chief of staff and former health department director listed as a defendant on the lawsuit.

They have boosted mental health funding by at least $30 million, and Sandoval signed an executive order to create the Behavioral Health and Wellness Council to oversee state programs and make recommendations. Since June, it has advocated for and Sandoval has awarded at least $3.5 million in state funding. More than 100 beds for mental health patients have been added to hospitals statewide.

Drug Shills Dispensing Pills A psychiatrist questions Big Pharma’s influence on her profession.

A recent article by Jean Kim in the magazine IN THESE TIMES

Jean Kim is a psychiatrist and writer in Washington, D.C., who is finishing her M.A. in nonfiction writing at Johns Hopkins University

In 2009, as an eager young psychiatry professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, I presented to faculty on the need for a moral dimension to psychiatric diagnoses. I was laughed out of the room.

One psychiatrist, a schizophrenia specialist, said he didn’t see the point. The acting medical director said he felt I’d called him immoral. A top research psychiatrist said, incredibly, “Morality and psychiatry should be kept separate.”


So a few years later, when ProPublica launched its Dollars for Docs database to track the drug company money doctors were taking, I typed in their names. The acting medical director received $12,550 in 2010 and 2011 for speaking gigs. The researcher received more than $212,489 between 2009 and 2012 for speaking gigs and consultations. The schizophrenia specialist made more than $323,300. And the database only includes disclosures from 17 of the more than 70 drug companies in the world. According to Dollars for Docs, hundreds of thousands of doctors have raked in a total of more than $4 billion since 2009, with the top earner, psychiatrist Dr. Jon Draud, netting at least $1.2 million.

As a psychiatrist who “grew up” in the last decade, I was not surprised.

I started my residency training in New York City in 2000. Lunches and dinners provided by drug company reps were astaple of my diet. For a hungry, harried resident on a paltry salary, a free pit stop at a steaming Chinese buffet was heaven. All around me in Manhattan, investment bankers and freshly minted lawyers were living it up, and I admit that I wanted a piece of the pie as well. By mid-decade, academic psychiatry had become glamorous. A resident might schmooze with a drug rep and get invited to a trendy spot—Nobu, Olives, Tao—where we could imbibe Sex and the City-style cocktails and sample the freshest sushi. Drug reps, selected for their looks and charm, were the popular, beautiful best friends we geeky docs never had.

In 2003, I won a free ride to the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in San Francisco as part of an Aventis-sponsored fellowship for women in psychiatry. An industry-sponsored gala featured an open bar and a Brobdingnagian spread: tables loaded with huge flower displays, chocolate fountains, petit fours and gourmet hors d’oeuvres. The conference also hosted a Disney-esque exhibit hall full of brightly colored drug company displays with touchscreen computer stations. I filled my free tote bag with gifts—pens, laser pointers, candy, textbooks. My favorite was the Xanax XR clock, whose hands rested on a bed of clear turquoise fluid, to simulate the feeling of floating on a summer pool.

I graduated from residency training and became an attending psychiatrist myself. Back then, it was viewed as a symbol of academic prowess to be on a drug company’s speaker’s bureau. So when an enthusiastic new drug rep from my alma mater invited me, a lowly junior attending, to a speaker training session, I was flattered and accepted. On an all-expenses-paid two-day training trip to Chicago, I stayed at a posh hotel on Michigan Avenue and sat through lectures about the then-new antipsychotic drug Geodon. I was paid $2,500 for going, and another $1,000 for giving a “talk” for about seven minutes a few weeks later at a dinner with a handful of colleagues. Persuaded that I needed to gain experience with Geodon so that I could be a better presenter, I began prescribing it more often. Then I began to see that it was less reliable than other medications. I quit the speaker’s bureau, realizing I had been manipulated into writing more Geodon prescriptions. In fact, the drug rep’s salary depended on such performance increases. Drug companies can track all physicians’ prescriptions—a 2011 Supreme Court decision upheld their right to do so, citing data as “free commercial speech.”

In November 2007, as the economy imploded, a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Carlat, wrote a famous essay in the New York Times Magazine about a stint as a pharma shill. He concluded, “The money was affecting my critical judgment. I was willing to dance around the truth in order to make the drug reps happy. Receiving $750 checks for chatting with some doctors during a lunch break was such easy money that it left me giddy. Like an addiction, it was very hard to give up.” I read it and realized that I had been going along with the tide—that a colossal, profit-driven advertising engine was using our own psychological tactics to manipulate us.

The next year, heads began to roll. In October 2008, Dr. Charles Nemeroff, then head of psychiatry at Emory University, made the front page of the New York Times for failing to report more than $1.2 million dollars in drug company-related income to Emory, which had strict guidelines for non-academic money. He resigned and now works for the University of Miami.

Dr. Joseph Biederman of Harvard Medical School went one step farther than Nemeroff. As the Times reported in November 2008, he not only hid from Harvard that he’d taken more than $1.4 million from drug companies; he publicly advocated for diagnosing more children with bipolar disorder and prescribing them more antipsychotic medications. The rate of prescriptions for these medications skyrocketed. Antipsychotics should only be used when absolutely necessary, given their potential for serious side effects, especially in children.

Since then, FDA regulations have gotten tighter, and in 2009, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America self-imposed a code on interactions with healthcare professions. Drug company speakers can no longer ad-lib invented uses for their medications and have to include mention of “negative studies” if available. Comped dinners must be modest by local standards and include presentations. Pens and trinkets are banned. The once-charming reps can speak to you only if spoken to, not unlike vampires who cannot enter your home unless invited.

The reforms have cut down on blatant pharma influence, but prominent psychiatrists still shill shamelessly, and much research is pharma-funded. Take the October 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the elite scientific publication in our field. Five of the six research articles contain disclosures that one or more of the authors worked or consulted for pharma. It remains to be seen whether more data releases from ProPublica—and now from Open Payments, a federal database mandated by the Affordable Care Act and unveiled in late September—will create enough public backlash to convince these doctors that this type of income does harm. Conflicts of interest weaken the credibility of research and hurt patients by encouraging poor prescribing practices. They also undermine the crucial trust between doctor and patient by fueling the paranoiac skepticism that all psychotropic medications are mind-altering, toxic tools of profit.

The right medications, alongside psychotherapy, can save and improve lives. I have seen people frozen in psychosis or melancholia awaken, as though from a nightmare, after getting the right treatment. I have seen soldiers back from war, riddled with flashbacks, become able to do simple things again, like go to a shopping mall. I have seen people once stuck in hospitals able to work again, to finish school, to have loving relationships. Those moments fulfill me as a doctor and as a human being. But I wish my profession would recognize that our ethics are worth more than a quick buck.


Quote: A top research psychiatrist said, incredibly, “Morality and psychiatry should be kept separate.”

Sums it up nicely, no?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

636,120 Ways to Have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Hat tip to "Big Trends in Neuroscience" where I first came across the link. This made the rounds about a year ago while I was on hiatus, but it still deserves extra attention

Diagnosing mental illness: more than half a million reasons to worry


Here’s a fascinating article from Perspective on Psychological Science about the very troubling state of psychiatric diagnosis, using PTSD as the prime example (Galatzer-Levy and Bryant 2013). I know DSM bashing is all the rage (looking at you, Tom Insell), but this paper takes DSM to the woodshed in some new and exhilarating ways. I had my behavioral neuroscience students read it last semester, and it got them appropriately agitated.

Bibliography


Galatzer-Levy, I. R., and R. A. Bryant. 2013. 636,120 Ways to Have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Perspectives on Psychological Science. SAGE Publications, November 1. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1745691613504115
You can find the full paper in PDF format here

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Newton charged with healthcare fraud

As reported in the Shippensburg News Chronicle on Decenmber 5th, 2014

The United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced today that charges have been filed against Andrew Newton, a resident of Harrisburg.

According to United States Attorney, Peter Smith, Dr. Andrew Newton, 42, a psychiatrist with an office in Mount Carmel is charged in a six-count information with false billings for psychotherapy services. Specifically, it is alleged that between August 2010, and November 2011, Newton billed Medicare for face-to-face therapy sessions when he was in fact out of the country.

7 years ago a man was committed to a high-security psychiatric hospital for fabricating a story of large scale money-laundering at a major bank. Internal bank documents have been found that prove his claims.

As Reported in the Daily Morning.

Of course, this abuse of the psychiatric system is brushed off as "not their fault" by everyone who helped get this man committed.

A German man committed to a high-security psychiatric hospital after being accused of fabricating a story of money-laundering activities at a major bank is to have his case reviewed after evidence has emerged proving the validity of his claims.

In a plot worthy of a crime blockbuster, Gustl Mollath, 56, was submitted to the secure unit of a psychiatric hospital seven years ago after court experts diagnosed him with paranoid personality disorder following his claims that staff at the Hypo Vereinsbank (HVB) – including his wife, then an assets consultant at HVB – had been illegally smuggling large sums of money into Switzerland.

Mollath was tried in 2006 after his ex-wife accused him of causing her physical harm. He denied the charges, claiming she was trying to sully his name in the light of the evidence he allegedly had against her. He was admitted to the clinic, where he has remained against his will ever since.

But recent evidence brought to the attention of state prosecutors shows that money-laundering activities were indeed practiced over several years by members of staff at the Munich-based bank, the sixth-largest private financial institute in Germany, as detailed in an internal audit report carried out by the bank in 2003. The report, which has now been posted online, detailed illegal activities including money-laundering and aiding tax evasion. A number of employees, including Mollath’s wife, were subsequently sacked following the bank’s investigation.

The “Mollath affair”, as it has been dubbed by the German media, has taken on such political dimensions that it now threatens to bring down the government of Bavaria. Under the weight of public and political pressure Horst Seehofer, the prime minister of the rich southern state and a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the sister party to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats – has now called for the case to be reopened, amid charges that Mollath was possibly the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.

“The judiciary would be well-advised to reassess the case,” Seehofer said this week. “I want them to concentrate on the question of whether everything has been done correctly.”

His justice minister, Beate Merk, who has refused repeated calls to resign, said she had no doubt the case had been carried out “by the book and quite correctly”.

Mollath has been inundated with public support in the form of thousands of letters and internet posts, many comparing his fight to that of David versus Goliath. He said he was delighted that what he called the “murky business of the bank” is now emerging, 10 years after he first made his claims.

“This is precisely what I wanted to achieve all along,” he told the S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung, which brought the audit report to light earlier this month. In an interview in his sparsely furnished room in Bayreuth’s hospital for psychiatry, he pointed out the irony that he had suffered the fate he had repeatedly warned his wife she would face, telling her: ‘Please be careful. One day you will end up in handcuffs and then you’ll be banged up for a few years'”, he said.

Asked whether it felt any responsibility towards Mollath, a spokeswoman for HVB told: “We don’t recognise any connection between the results of our audit report and either the criminal trial or the commitment of Mr Mollath.”

Asked why the bank kept the report to itself and did not approach the authorities, the spokeswoman added: “In 2003 HVB initiated extensive investigations via internal audits in response to information provided by Mr Mollath on transactions that had taken place a long time before … It was determined that employees had acted contrary to their instructions regarding Swiss banking transactions”.

But while the findings, it said, had resulted in sackings, the audit “did not produce sufficient evidence indicating criminal conduct … that would have made a criminal charge seem appropriate”.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Las Cruces psychiatrist abused former patient, police say

As Reported in the Las Cruces Sun Times

A Las Cruces psychiatrist has been arrested after police say he abused a former patient.

Daniel J. Brandt, 54, was charged with one count of abuse of a resident, a fourth-degree felony, according to a Las Cruces Police Department news release.

Police allege Brandt grabbed the hoodie of a 28-year-old former patient, twisted it in his hand and escorted the intellectually disabled inside Campo Behavioral Health Services on Tuesday. Brand's hold was tight enough, according to police, that the man choked and passed out for a brief time.

Brandt had worked with the man for 13 years, till July when the man's court-appointed guardian requested a change in psychiatrists, the news release states.

The man and caretaker had gone to Campo Behavioral Health Services on Tuesday to reconcile records. That's when Brandt allegedly approached them in the parking lot, suggesting the man see a new therapist at the facility. When the man refused, Brandt allegedly grabbed him.

Reached on Thursday afternoon, Brandt declined to comment on the incident.

He was booked into the Do├▒a Ana County Detention Center on Wednesday on a $10,000 bond. Brand, who has no criminal record according to online New Mexico court records, has since posted bail.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Mysterious Vanishing Brains How could 100 jars of human brains—taken from deceased patients of an Austin mental hospital—just disappear from their home at the University of Texas?

As Reported in The Atlantic

Their article was excerpted from Alex Hannaford's Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.

Somewhere in a little-used room in the bowels of the Animal Resources Center on the University of Texas’s campus in Austin sit around 100 or so large glass jars. They’re stored three-deep on a wooden shelving unit that takes up an entire wall. Glass doors do a fairly good job of keeping off the dust and protecting them from the occasional visitor to this air-conditioned storeroom.

Those jars house an unlikely collection: Each contains a complete—or, in a few cases, a partial—human brain, submerged in formalin. And on most is affixed a label, faded with time but still legible, inscribed with three pieces of information: a reference number, the condition from which the patient suffered (described in archaic Latin), and the date of death.

The specimens, which date back to the 1950s, all belonged to patients at the Austin State Hospital (ASH), formerly the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, an institution that still sits on a shady lot off Guadalupe Street, about three miles north of downtown Austin.

[...]

From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the resident pathologist at the hospital was a man named Dr. Coleman de Chenar, and it was in the room where he performed autopsies that he began to amass a collection of brains. At the time of his death in 1985, he had around 200 specimens that he’d collected during routine autopsies on mental patients.

[...]

Tim Schallert, a neuroscientist at UT and the collection’s curator, says that when the original brains were bequeathed to the University of Texas, there were around 200 specimens. By the mid-1990s, they were taking up much-needed shelf space at the Animal Resources Center, and Dr. Jerry Fineg, the center’s then-director, asked Schallert if he would move half of the jars elsewhere.

When Schallert got around to it, he says they had vanished. He asked Fineg if he knew what had happened to them, and Schallert says Fineg told him he got rid of them. “I never found out exactly what happened—whether they were just given away, sold or whatever—but they just disappeared.”

[...]

It’s a mystery worthy of a hard-boiled detective novel: 100 brains missing from campus, and apparently no one really knows what happened to them. Going through the official channels at the University of Texas eventually leads to a suggestion that Tim Schallert might know, as he is the collection’s curator. It’s back to square one.

Back in 1986, the Houston Chronicle described a fierce “battle for the brains” between UT and Harvard Medical School, and now 100 of the specimens—half of the original collection—have disappeared. Space at UT was limited, but the director of clinical support services at the State Hospital 25 years earlier had described being “overwhelmed” by calls about the collection. They were, she said at the time, a “valuable research tool.” A Harvard professor had said researchers were “crying out” to get the brain tissue in the UT collection. And yet today, apparently nobody knows where half of this valuable collection has gone. Were they given back to ASH? Were they sold? Were they given away? Will we ever find out?
While the witty suggest zombies, we are not so sure which shrinks would have an appetite for such a collection. It's like something out of a bad movie.

Mental Health Ranks High on Fraud Scale

A recent column by Richard Kusserow

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Kusserow’s Corner: Mental Health Ranks High on Fraud Scale


Occasionally, I take time to bring attention to enforcement actions in various health care sectors. Some recent actions drew my attention back to a special enforcement problem that stretches back decades to my days as Inspector General—mental health. Billions of dollars are spent to address the ever-increasing demand to treat mental stress and illness. The primary purpose of mental health treatment must be the therapeutic care and treatment of individuals who are suffering emotional disturbance. Proper treatment therefore demands the highest level of trustworthiness and integrity in the practitioner, who treats some of the most vulnerable patients. Two sources of funding are Medicaid and state general fund dollars, which on average fund 90 percent of the system. However, about 10 percent is funded by Medicare, federal mental health services block grant funds, and county or municipal funds. As with other areas of health care, a significant portion of these funds are diverted to fraud within the mental health industry. Many health care fraud investigators believe mental health caregivers, such as psychiatrists and psychologists, have the worst fraud record of all medical disciplines. Much of that is attributable to prescriptions for narcotic drugs and taking advantage of some of the vulnerable individuals who suffer from mental illness or Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report focusing on one aspect of the problem: detecting and deferring mental health fraud in community mental health centers (CMHCs). CMHCs provide partial hospitalization program services to approximately 25,000 Medicare beneficiaries. The OIG report cited numerous arrests by Medicare Fraud Strike Forces evidencing significant levels of CMHC fraud. The OIG review found that one of nine MACs reviewed performed activities to detect and deter CMHC fraud, and most of these were part of a CMS-led special project. Activities to detect and deter CMHC fraud varied substantially among ZPICs with many performing minimal activities to detect and deter fraudulent CMHC billing. The report provided a number of recommendations to increase control and enforcement in this arena. However, this is only one area of Medicare that addresses mental health. Other areas are equally prone to fraud and abuse.

The latest in the Medicare enforcement arena comes from Louisiana where the owner of three mental health centers was sentenced to pay $43.5 million in restitution and serve 8-and-one-half years in federal prison for a Medicare fraud scheme. A psychiatrist, who served as medical director and co-owner, was sentenced to 86 months in prison for his role in admitting mentally ill patients to the facilities, some of whom were inappropriate for partial hospitalization, and then re-certifying the patients’ appropriateness for the program in an effort to continue to bill Medicare for services. These were among 17 people who worked at the three facilities in a variety of roles who also been charged in the fraudulent operation that stretched seven years and involved over a quarter-billion dollars in Medicare fraud. They included therapists, marketers, administrators, owners, and the medical director. The companies billed Medicare for unnecessary or never provided partial hospitalization program services for the mentally ill. The companies, collectively, submitted more than one-quarter-billion dollars in claims to Medicare during this period. The scheme also involved falsifying records indicating patients had treatment they never received and paying recruiters to, in turn, pay patients to attend hospitalization programs at the facility in order to make Medicare claims.

The fraud problem is actually larger and more pervasive in the Medicaid program, which provides significantly more funding to this area. For example, last year New Mexico was in the midst of a sweeping criminal investigation into 15 of its largest mental health providers, suspected of defrauding Medicaid of $36 million over three years.

Examples of Fraud in the Mental Health Sector
  • Altering and/or falsifying records to match services billed
  • Billing for services not actually performed
  • Errors and falsification of patient charts
  • Fabricating patient files
  • Paying kickbacks paid to recruiters to find beneficiaries
  • Lack of a referral form from an approved provider source
  • Lack of documentation for service provided
  • Service notes lack specific treatment goal
  • Billing for service not covered by Medicaid as a covered service
  • Billing for a more expensive service than was actually rendered
  • Prescribing category narcotic drugs to addicts or for selling on the street
  • Changing the billed date of service to match client dates of eligibility
  • Deliberately applying for duplicate reimbursement in order to get paid twice
  • Inappropriate billing that results in a loss to the Medicaid program
  • Providing services which are not necessary
  • Billing for services performed by unqualified persons

Mental health scams target Medicare and Medicaid

As seen in this report

Fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid mental health benefits has been "a special enforcement problem that stretches back decades," according to former Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Richard P. Kusserow. "Many healthcare fraud investigators believe mental health caregivers, such as psychiatrists and psychologists, have the worst fraud record of all medical disciplines," Kusserow wrote. That belief is largely based on numbers of prescriptions for narcotics and exploitation of patients diagnosed with mental illness or Alzheimer's disease.

One fraud hotspot is community mental health centers (CMHCs) that offer partial psychiatric hospitalization programs. In Medicaid, there's been "an explosion of fraud in community-based treatments," including billing for services not rendered, services provided by unlicensed staff or services tainted by kickbacks, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Radway.

The Medicare Strike Force made arrests for significant CMHC fraud involving programs serving about 25,000 beneficiaries, Kusserow noted. Yet just one out of nine Medicare Audit Contractors reviewed last year by the Office of Inspector General worked to thwart CMHC fraud, Kusserow noted. This finding led the agency to recommend increased controls and enforcement in this area.

A recent case involved Louisiana psychiatrist Zahid Imran who was sent to prison for his role in a Medicare scam involving partial hospitalization services. Imran admitted patients who didn't need partial hospitalization and then recertified their appropriateness for the program to keep the Medicare reimbursement flowing. Imran's crimes were part of a $258 million fraud scheme in which 17 people were convicted, including therapists, marketers, administrators, and owners of facilities in two states. Perpetrators paid recruiters to round up patients and altered documentation to make it look like they received treatment.

Mental health fraud is more pervasive in Medicaid, Kusserow wrote, since Medicaid and the states provide more funding to this area than Medicare. Last year, for example, New Mexico investigated 15 of its largest mental healthcare providers who were suspected of cheating Medicaid out of $36 million in three years.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A King County civil jury has ordered Overlake Hospital Medical Center to pay $950,000 in damages to a mentally ill woman who was assaulted while undergoing psychiatric treatment

As Reported in the Seattle Times.

Substantially more details at the link

A King County civil jury has ordered Overlake Hospital Medical Center to pay $950,000 in damages to a mentally ill woman who was assaulted by another patient while undergoing psychiatric treatment at the Bellevue hospital.

Civil attorneys Lincoln Beauregard and Steven Fogg filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that Overlake was negligent because no one was monitoring the video-camera surveillance system in the psychiatric unit where the assault took place. They also alleged that the hospital was not checking in on the mentally ill patients on a regular basis.

“You have a vulnerable 27-year-old woman who was trying to be stabilized. She wasn’t supposed to be sexually assaulted,” Beauregard said Tuesday. “Overlake Hospital repeatedly pointed the finger at her. They said she had opportunities and choices and should have screamed louder.”

The jury reached its verdict Monday after an eight-day civil trial in Superior Court.

Beauregard said his client, who had prior diagnoses of schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is even more emotionally damaged as a result.

“She now has exacerbated PTSD. She’s severely mentally ill. She’s a fighter who is doing really good trying to get her mental illnesses under control,” Beauregard said.

“This is an unfortunate situation,” Kipepeo “Pep” Brown, the hospital’s director of marketing, communications and community outreach, said in an email Tuesday. “Overlake Medical Center is currently considering our options for appeal. At this point, we cannot comment further on the details of the case or the judgment.”

Emergency Department Visits Attributed to Overmedication That Involved the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem (Ambien)

As seen in this government report from SAMSA.GOV

In Brief:

  • The total estimated number of zolpidem-related emergency department (ED) visits involving overmedication increased for both males and females between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010. 
  • In 2010, females accounted for two thirds (68 percent) of zolpidem-related ED visits involving overmedication; patients aged 45 to 54 represented the largest proportion of zolpidem-related ED visits involving overmedication. 
  • More than half of zolpidem-related ED visits involving overmedication in 2010 included other pharmaceuticals combined with zolpidem (57 percent). 
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of zolpidem-related ED visits involving overmedication resulted in either a hospital admission or transfer in 2010, 26 percent of which were admissions to a critical or intensive care unit.


Read the Full Report at this link

Zolpidem, which is handed out to 750,000 NHS patients in Britain seeking treatment for insomnia each year, has been found to be a factor in dozens of instances of people breaking the law while sleeping.

Another case of the harmful side effects of psychiatric drugs

As reported in the Daily Mail

NOTE: Zolpidem is also known as Ambien by in the the USA

Sleeping pills taken by celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Tiger Woods – and prescribed widely in Britain – could be to blame for numerous cases of dangerous and even criminal behaviour.

Zolpidem, which is handed out to 750,000 NHS patients seeking treatment for insomnia each year, has been found to be a factor in dozens of instances of people breaking the law while sleeping.

They include 43 instances of driving, nine rapes, eight assaults, ten murders or manslaughters, and burglaries – all of which were claimed to have been carried out while the perpetrator was apparently asleep. In most cases they also had no memory of the event.

Neurologist Professor Mark Mahowald, of Sleep Forensic Associates, a US-based organisation of doctors who help those who break the law while still asleep, says: ‘It appears that one part of the brain responsible for complex activities, like driving or cooking, is awake, while another, involved in memory, is not.

‘In sleep-driving for example, people take the drug, go to bed, and then wake up in the car with their pyjamas on. When the police pull them over, they do not know how they got there.’

Prof Mahowald, of the University of Minnesota Medical School, adds: ‘One of the difficulties in advising people about taking the drug is that it is effective and there does not seem to be any way of identifying people at risk of these uncommon side effects.’

Some 82 medication-related cases worked on since 2006 involved ‘toxicity’ due to Zolpidem. In 79 of the cases the defence was successful.

Troubled actress Lohan has admitted to problems while taking Ambien.

Initially marketed two decades ago as a safer alternative to older, more addictive benzodiazepine drugs, including Valium, in recent years Zolpidem, along with similar so-called Z-drugs such as zopiclone, have been linked to a raised risk of dementia and heart problems.

Numerous studies have reported rare instances of patients driving, eating, making telephone calls and even having sex while under the influence of the medication.

Some experts even recommend that patients secure their bedroom windows and get into bed before taking the drug, to reduce any possibility of harm.

One report, by doctors at the Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires, claimed that up to one per cent of patients had a sleep-eating problem after taking the sedative. The only clues to their nocturnal feasting were morning leftovers and crumbs in the bed.

Patients being prescribed Zolpidem are already warned that changes in sleep behaviour, including sleepwalking, are a possible side effect, but this is the first time data on criminal behaviour linked to the drug has been comprehensively collected.

New US research shows that the drug is implicated in one in ten emergency department cases due to psychiatric drugs. In over-65s, it accounted for 21 per cent of cases. One theory is that the events actually occur while people are waking from deep sleep.

Although prescribing guidelines state Zolpidem should be used only in the short term, with an initial two-week course recommended, a recent study by herbal sleep aid company Sleepio found that up to 42 per cent of patients on sleeping pills had been taking them for more than a decade, and a quarter for between three and five years. And, according to the Economic and Social Research Council, one in ten of us now regularly takes some form of sleeping tablet.

Dr Guy Leschziner, consultant neurologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals in London, says: ‘These drugs tend to be habit-forming and can have unintended consequences such as these unwanted behaviours.’

[...]