Watchdog Questions if Psychiatric Drugs are Predisposing Patients to CV19 Deaths

These are dangerous trends and in the proffered help for people concerned about virus threats, deaths and economic disadvantage—which, in turn, threaten individual and family survival—the last thing needed is to add mind-altering substances that can cause unhealthy and debilitating effects. – Jan Eastgate, President CCHR International

As psychiatric hospitals report COVID-19 deaths, CCHR is concerned about psychotropic drugs that lower the immune system potentially predisposing patients to viruses and death. Meanwhile, antidepressants are being researched as treatment for COVID-19, with claims they may reduce the onset of a second phase of COVID-19 infection: a life-threatening overreaction of the immune system. Add to this, psychedelic drug treatment research is being advocated for pandemic-caused “depression.”

By Jan Eastgate
President CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
April 14, 2020

It is undeniable that we are all facing stresses navigating through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges facing organizations, employees, and individuals are staggering. But juxtaposed against the positive mantra, “We’ll get through this together,” is the chaos-mongering that people across the globe “will battle psychological scars for years,”[1] requiring psychiatric or psychological treatment. However, it would be a tragedy if the natural “fears” of COVID-19 are redefined as “mental disorders” to be treated by unregulated psychiatric and psychological practices.

This includes treatment such as physically damaging psychotropics that can adversely impact the immune system, potentially predisposing patients to contracting COVID-19.  Astonishingly, during the virus concerns there has been media on psychiatrists calling for research into psychedelics drugs, like LSD and psilocybin to treat “depression” which is predicted to arise from the pandemic.

Mirsad Serdarevic Ph.D. writing in Psychology Today, noted the psychiatric healthcare package offered patients during this pandemic is likely to be psychotropic drugs. “Over the past several decades, psychiatric practice has been almost exclusively reduced to psychopharmaceutical practice, which either leads to or contributes to physical deterioration of the population it purports to be treating.” This includes the larger population being prescribed antidepressants which can cause weight gain and could “contribute, if not lead, to development of obesity, one of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 disease complications and mortality.”[2]

With COVID deaths being reported as greater in those with underlying diseases, it begs the question whether the drug practices used in psychiatric hospitals can predispose patients to COVID-19. Cleveland Clinic reports that when people are immunocompromised (impaired immune system), their body has a reduced ability to fight off and recover from infections. This could be because they have a certain chronic condition that affects the immune system, or because of certain medications they are taking. According to the clinic’s infectious disease specialist Alan Taege, M.D., “serious complications of COVID-19 are most likely to develop in elderly people, as well as those who have weakened immune systems, or are immunocompromised.”[3]

Antipsychotics are frequently relied upon in psychiatric hospitals. Clinical reports indicate that patients treated with atypical antipsychotics are more susceptible to infections.[4] The antipsychotic clozapine poses a risk of lowering immune system function.[5] Taking neuroleptics, lithium, psychostimulants and tranquilizers can weaken the immune system.[6] The FDA warns that lamotrigine prescribed as a mood stabilizer “can cause a rare but very serious reaction” to the immune system which “can cause severe inflammation throughout the body and lead to hospitalization and death.”[7]

New Jersey recently reported four patients died from COIVID in psychiatric hospitals.[8] St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric institution in Washington, D.C., has reported four patient deaths.[9] Thirteen patients tested positive at Western State Hospital in Kentucky.[10]

However, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis announced they are launching a clinical trial in patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 but who are not sick enough to be hospitalized. The trial is investigating whether the antidepressant fluvoxamine (Luvox)—a drug linked to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 (see below)—can be repurposed for COVID-19. The drug is thought to reduce the onset of a second phase of COVID-19 infection: a life-threatening overreaction of the immune system that leads to what’s called a “cytokine storm.”[11]  

Immune cells use cytokines, which are a group of proteins secreted by cells of the immune system that act as chemical messengers.[12] A cytokine storm is a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Having a large amount of them released in the body all at once can be harmful.[13]

In one of many unproved psychiatric theories to explain “mental disorder,” it is theorized that cytokines are implicated in the pathology of depression.[14] That inflammatory cytokines contribute to the development of depression and that antidepressants can reverse this.[15] The Washington University researchers believe fluvoxamine, which is one of the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants interacts with a protein important to the body’s inflammatory response.[16]

On April 1, The New York Times described it this way: when the body first encounters a virus or a bacterium, the immune system ramps up and begins to fight the invader. The foot soldiers in this fight are molecules called cytokines that set off a cascade of signals to cells to marshal a response. Usually, the stronger this immune response, the stronger the chance of vanquishing the infection. But in some cases, the immune system keeps raging long after the virus is no longer a threat. It continues to release cytokines that keep the body on an exhausting full alert. In their misguided bid to keep the body safe, these cytokines attack multiple organs including the lungs and liver, and may eventually lead to death.[17]

“Everyone’s talking about cytokine storm as if it were a well-recognized phenomenon, but you could have asked medics two weeks ago and they wouldn’t have heard of it,” said Dr. Jessica Manson, an immunologist at University College London Hospital. [18]

Luvox was linked to the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999. Teen shooter Eric Harris was one of the assailants. His autopsy revealed a therapeutic level of Luvox in his system.[19] A cousin of Prozac, patients may experience adverse effects such as mania, bouts of irritability, aggression and hostility.[20]

So, in theory, patients may be prescribed antipsychotics or other psychotropics that may lead to a compromised immune system and predisposing them to viruses, at which point antidepressants could be prescribed to reverse this.  Either way, this is risky business.

Antidepressants and Suicide

Add to that psychiatrists are warning that suicide—which antidepressants can induce—is likely to be an outcome of the COVID-19 threat.

Recently a New York psychiatrist told ABC News that “It is certainly reasonable to expect the risk of suicide increasing secondary to the economic and social fallout” of COVID-19,[21] instilling fears of a potential suicide outbreak. With already one in six American adults taking a psychiatric drug, the impact of increasing this is foreboding. According to a researcher at Boulder County Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health, “A majority of suicide attempts involve the use of medication.” The main exposure was individuals in the sample study who filled a psychotropic drug prescription within 90 days before the suicide attempt.[22]

Antidepressants top the list of psychotropics Americans take, followed by sedatives, hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs, then antipsychotics.[23] Another 6.7 million 0-17-year-olds are prescribed psychotropic drugs, of which 2.1 million are taking antidepressants that the FDA warns against prescribing to because of the risk of suicide.[24]

The FDA warns against antidepressant prescribing to this age group because of the risk of suicide. Other recognized side effects include anxiety, agitation and nervousness, vivid dreaming and withdrawal effects.[25] Not effects people should be experiencing during an epidemic.

Yet, it could now be anticipated that these dangerous drugs will be promoted as a prevention or treatment for COVID-19. And while the risk of death from COVID-19 is bad enough, it is also a legitimate risk of taking antidepressants.

According to a researcher at Boulder County Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health, “A majority of suicide attempts involve the use of medication,” The main exposure was individuals who filled a psychotropic drug prescription within 90 days before the suicide attempt.”[26]

An April 2020 Psychology Today article warns of potential overprescribing of SSRI antidepressants “due in part to coronavirus-related stress and anxiety on a scale felt worldwide,” but that it is especially important to be reminded that COVID-19 is not a mental health crisis. As Dr. Lucy Johnstone explains, “It’s healthy to be afraid in a crisis” and “wrong to view our natural fears as mental health disorders.”[27]

CCHR is tracking the increased volume of psychiatric promotion through the media and to government that “depression,” “anxiety” and suicide are likely to soar because of COVID-19 and we question the potential conflicts of interests behind some of these assertions.

A psychiatrist representing the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry has warned that the “real mental health crisis” is yet to come and “I think we’re on the precipice of [an increase in demand].”[28] This psychiatrist has conflicts of interest with five psychotropic drug manufacturers, including stock holdings in a company that makes antipsychotics.[29]

COVID-19 and Hallucinogenic Drugs

Like antidepressants, psychedelic drugs are theorized to have an “anti-inflammatory effect” and can help reverse mental disorders such as depression. In November 2019, Psychedelic Science Review claimed “One recently identified therapeutic characteristic of psychedelics that holds notable promise is their anti-inflammatory effect.”[30]

A Real Money article headlined “Psychedelics May Find Legit Place in Pharma as Pandemic Takes Toll” reported the obvious: “The coronavirus pandemic has tested the psychological state of many. Social distancing and staying isolated, as well as general fear of the virus, has wreaked havoc on even those with the strongest mindsets.” But then followed with the astounding idea that some firms are now “experimenting with use of LSD and ‘magic mushroom’ compounds.”[31]

Newsweek reported that psychedelic drugs could soon be commonly used to treat mental health patients. A study being conducted at the Imperial College London will soon finish a trial comparing psilocybin with the antidepressant drug escitalopram (Lexapro) on patients with depression.[32]

The lead researcher, Professor David Nutt, has strong ties to at least seven psychiatric drug companies and has received grants or clinical trial payments from P1vital (clinical research company for CNS treatment development and mental health), which he also has share options in.[33]

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) was quick to blog in March that a “new review study concludes” that “psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), show promise for treating conditions including treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” The four drugs being researched are currently classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule 1 substances—controlled substances with no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse. The research team included the APA Work Group on Biomarkers and Novel treatments and at least four psychiatrists with strong financial ties to psychotropic drug makers—one a psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Nemeroff who came under federal investigation for his failure to declare $1 million he took from pharmaceutical companies.[34]

Add to this that this is promoted by the APA, an organization that thinks sending 460 volts of electricity through the brain to damage it with the use of electroshock treatment is therapeutic, even on five-year-old children. Sign CCHR’s Petition to Ban ECT here.

Neuropsychopharmacology reports that a hallucinogenic drug like LSD, that can transiently but powerfully alter human perception, behavior, and mood even at extremely low doses. Certain aspects of the behavior elicited by acute doses of LSD closely resemble symptoms of mental disorders such as schizophrenia.[35] The drug binds to serotonin receptors in your brain, essentially locking into position. “Once LSD gets in the receptor, you can think of it as a hole in the ground. LSD jumps into it and then pulls a lid down over the top,” said a study co-author, a pharmacologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.  “Basically, from the structure we could tell that once LSD gets in there it can’t get out. That’s why it lasts so long.” A very small dose could still have an effect.[36]

Today, Americans are illicitly “microdosing” using LSD, using a system developed by a psychologist.[37] “It is said to be a term that refers to the practice of taking small, non-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic drugs.[38] While not endorsing taking LSD, one article recently discussed microdosing: “On the plus side: dosing seems like a good way to shave six or eight or 12 hours off the self-quarantine.”  Further, “Using the time alone to experiment with psychedelics and explore your own interiority seems like a handy idea during this bizarre period of consensual social lockdown.”[39]

In the 60s, the media, notably LIFE magazine, whose publisher Henry Luce took LSD, ran articles promoting the hallucinogen. Yet medical studies showed the drug could induce a “psychotic psychedelic experience characterized by intense fear to the point of panic, paranoid delusions of suspicion or grandeur, toxic confusion, depersonalization” and all of these could “be of powerful magnitude.”[40] As Medical News Today reported in 2017, after LSD was banned in 1967 and classified as a Schedule 1 drug “with no acceptable medical use.” It is used illicitly and can trigger the onset of schizophrenia on those predisposed to it.[41]

In 2018, an estimated 5.6 million people in the U.S. aged 12 or older were past year users of hallucinogens and an estimated 376,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 were past year users of hallucinogens, which corresponded to 1.5 percent of adolescents.[42] With the psychedelic research now being conducted for COVID-19 inspired fears and depressions, LSD could turn from illicit to “legitimate” use…and abuse.

The reliance upon dangerous psychotropic substances begs investigation as well as how psychiatrists use disasters to advocate for these and demand more funds to deliver them. It would also behoove the media to inspect the risks of these drugs being promoted and who profits from them. Certainly, the Food and Drug Administration is not going to regulate their use if they approve them, nor their “off-label” prescription.

In 2019, FDA regulators green lit a drug inspired by ketamine made by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for severe forms of depression.[43] Ketamine is also known as a “club” and “date rape” drug that can cause disassociation, meaning victims enter a state in which they feel as if their mind and body aren’t connected.[44] J&J is renowned for using a potential carcinogen-causing asbestos ingredient in its talc powder and in February 2020 agreed to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four people who said their use of the company’s talcum powders caused a rare cancer. The verdict “was a loud repudiation of J&J’s decades of excuses,” said Moshe Maimon, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.[45] It has also paid out millions of dollars over risks and damage from its antipsychotic, Risperdal and a court finding J&J and its Janssen unit committed more than 238,000 violations of the state’s Medicaid fraud laws by illegally marketing Risperdal over an almost four-year period starting in 2002.[46] And in October 2019, J&J proposed a $4 billion cash payment to settle accusations from around 2,600 lawsuits claiming it holds partial blame for the opioid epidemic in the US.[47]

Federal regulators have also assigned “breakthrough therapy” status to ecstasy or MDMA, which could hasten its approval as a prescription drug for patients with PTSD.[48] Street names for ecstacy include Molly, Ecstasy, X, Superman, and XTC, among many others. MDMA can also be addictive, and research suggests that long-term cognitive problems may develop in some users.[49] MDMA can also produce involuntary jaw clenching, depersonalization and illogical or disorganized thoughts, according to National Institute of Drug Abuse.[50]

These are dangerous trends and in the proffered help for people concerned about virus threats, deaths and economic disadvantage—which, in turn, threaten individual and family survival—the last thing needed is to add mind-altering substances that can cause unhealthy and debilitating effects.

CCHR wants consumers to better informed of psychotropic drug risks if recommended during or because of concerns over COVID-19 epidemic. It offers a free online psychiatric drugs side effects database to ensure people are properly informed of the risks and dangers of these drugs.


[1] “Unemployment, isolation: COVID-19’s mental health impact: The current pandemic is not just a medical tragedy,” ABC News, 7 Apr. 2020,

[2] Mirsad Serdarevic Ph.D., “When Medications Hurt: How the COVID-19 crisis highlights serious problems with psychiatric treatment,” Psychology Today, 11 Apr. 2020,



[5] “The most serious side effect associated with CLOZARIL is called agranulocytosis. This occurs when your white blood cell count is significantly lowered and your body’s immune system becomes highly vulnerable to infection,”




[9] “Four Patients At St. Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital Have Died Of COVID-19,”


[11] “Study to evaluate antidepressant as potential COVID-19 treatment,” Washington State School of Medicine in St. Louis, 13 April 2020,



[14] “Cytokine Research in Depression: Principles, Challenges, and Open Questions,” Frontier Psychiatry, 7 Feb. 2019,


[16] “Study to evaluate antidepressant as potential COVID-19 treatment,” Washington State School of Medicine in St. Louis, 13 April 2020,

[17] “The Coronavirus Patients Betrayed by Their Own Immune Systems,” The New York Times, 1 Apr. 2020,

[18] Ibid.



[21] “Unemployment, isolation: COVID-19’s mental health impact: The current pandemic is not just a medical tragedy,” ABC News, 7 Apr. 2020,

[22] “Prescribed access to psychotropic drugs linked to suicide method choice,” Brown TL, et al. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018; doi:10.4088/JCP.17m11982. Healio Psychiatry, 20 Nov. 2018,

[23] “1 in 6 Americans Takes a Psychiatric Drug: Antidepressants were most common, followed by anxiety relievers and antipsychotics,” Scientific American, 13 Dec. 2016,



[26] Op. cit., Brown TL, et al. J Clin Psychiatry

[27] Christopher Lane, Ph.D., “Antidepressants and Online Misinformation: A study of medical websites finds widespread misreporting,” Psychology Today, 13 Apr. 2020,

[28]; Alexza Pharmaceuticals (researching alprazolam), Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and Wyeth Ayerst and has stock holdings, in with Johnson & Johnson

[29] Alexza Pharmaceuticals (researching alprazolam), Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and Wyeth Ayerst and has stock holdings, in with Johnson & Johnson


[31] “Psychedelics May Find Legit Place in Pharma as Pandemic Takes Toll,” Real Money, 2 Apr. 2020,

[32] “We Could Be Taking Psychedelics to Help Treat Mental Illness in Just Five Years,” Newsweek, 7 Apr. 2020,

[33]; Bristol Myers Squibb, Otuska, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Servier

[34] “Could Psychedelics be Used to Treat Mental Illness?” APA blog, 17 Mar. 2020,;

[35] “A Single Dose of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Influences Gene Expression Patterns within the Mammalian Brain,” Neuropsychopharmacology, 6 Nov. 2001, republished,

[36] “Ever Had a Really Long Acid Trip? Now Science Knows Why,” Wired, 36 Jan. 2017,

[37] “Some Use LSD As Brain Boost, But Dangers Remain,” Web MD, 6 Dec. 2017,; “The Psychologist Leading a Psychedelic Research Revolution: James Fadiman is legitimizing research into psychedelic microdosing,” Vice, 29 Nov. 2019,



[40], citing Wayne O. Evans and Nathan S. Kline, Psychotropic Drugs in the Year 2000: Use By Normal Humans (Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1971), p. 89

[41] “The effects and hazards of LSD,” Medical News Today, 22 Jun. 2017,