Watchdog’s Research on Psychotropic Drug Risks Expands as Usage Soars

CCHR wants people to be better informed if advised to take psychotropic drugs during these current times when they are most vulnerable.

CCHR is speeding up its research on drug agency warnings and studies showing drug risks to add to its free online psychiatric drugs side effects database, in response to antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug scripts increasing.

By CCHR International
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
April 21, 2020

Mental health watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International is updating its online Psychiatric Drugs Side Effects Database with new studies and adverse drug reactions so that consumers are better informed. They’ve increased research in light of an analysis by Express Scripts which found that prescriptions per week for antidepressants, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia drugs increased by 21% between February 16 and March 15, peaking the week of March 15 when the Coronavirus was deemed a pandemic. CCHR expects this rise has continued during COVID-19 regulations and recent claims of “Americans are turning to medications for relief.”

There was a 39.6% increase in anti-anxiety drugs given women, compared to 22.7% to men. Between 2015 and 2019, for people between the ages of 13 and 19, antidepressant use also increased by 38.3%.[1] Yet, the Food and Drug Administration warns that for this age group the drugs can induce suicidal behavior.[2]

CCHR says the increase is alarming because some psychotropic drug prescriptions had been declining, helping to safeguard patients against serious drug risks. Between 2015 and 2019, use of anti-anxiety drugs decreased by 12.1% among 21 million people in employer-sponsored health plans.[3]

CCHR Int’s side effects database already reports more than 150 drug regulatory agency warnings about antidepressants alone causing cardiovascular and other heart problems, hostility, aggression, agitation, insomnia, anxiety, sexual dysfunction and suicide.[4]

Researchers Martin Plöderl, Ph.D. and Michael P. Hengartner, PD. warned: “If you look at the past 10 years, antidepressant rates are associated with increased suicide rates,” the drugs “most likely cause suicidal behavior in young people” and “data strongly suggest that antidepressants can cause suicides and aggressive behavior.[5] CCHR says that with concerns about suicide in relation to COVID-19, the last thing needed is the population on drugs that can induce suicide.

More studies are emerging on antidepressant dangers. On April 8, The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that “antidepressant withdrawal can be a horrible experience.” A systematic review found that around 56% of people experience antidepressant withdrawal. James Davies, reader in social anthropology and mental health at the University of Roehampton, and the lead author of the review, worries that the lack of recognition of withdrawal risks “leads many doctors to misdiagnose withdrawal symptoms as relapse,” and unnecessarily and harmfully prescribe antidepressants for the long term.[6]

The journal BMC Psychiatry published a study which found that all SSRI antidepressant trials were “at high risk of bias and the clinical significance seems questionable. SSRIs significantly increase the risk of both serious and non-serious adverse events. The potential small beneficial effects seem to be outweighed by harmful effects.”[7]

A just-published study in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine reports that nearly every medical website and resource on antidepressant drug side effects have hugely downplayed the drugs’ risks. Researchers applied a checklist of 14 criteria to prominent websites from 10 different countries in which antidepressants are widely prescribed. As reported in Psychology Today, “They found a pattern both consistent and global, especially concerning antidepressant withdrawal, suicidality, and sexual and other side effects. Due in part to drug company sponsorship and related commercial pressures, the websites’ listing of the benefits and harms of antidepressants was found repeatedly to ‘conflict with the scientific evidence.’”[8]

Twenty-nine (74%) of the websites attributed depression to a “chemical imbalance,” a notion debunked more than a decade ago, but one that websites continue to suggest can be fixed and corrected, Psychology Today reported.[9] CCHR says such a claim should constitute consumer fraud.

Joanna Moncrieff, MD, Professor of Critical and Social Psychiatry at University College London and works as a consultant in community psychiatry says that “more than 50 years of intense research efforts have failed to identify depression in the brain.”[10]

Psychiatrists, such as Ronald Pies, writing in Medscape, even admitted “…the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ was never a real theory, nor was it widely propounded by responsible practitioners in the field of psychiatry.”[11] Yet the American Psychiatric Association still has on its website, “Psychiatric medications can help correct imbalances in brain chemistry that are thought to be involved in some mental disorders.”[12]

In an April 2020 Psychiatric Times interview with Dr. Moncrief, she said, “Assuming that drugs work by acting on the underlying biological mechanisms of mental symptoms (the disease-centered model) has obscured the fact that the drugs we use in psychiatry are psychoactive drugs—that is, drugs that change the brain in ways we do not fully understand….” Further, “The idea that we can pin down the biological mechanisms of complex human thoughts, feelings and behaviors is part of the problem with our thinking in my view. We cannot do this now, and we have no indication that we will be able to do so in the future—a view put forward in critical neuroscience too….”[13]

Dr. Moncrief’s comments are poignant considering the COVID-19 virus has led to less restrictions on psychiatrists prescribing psychoactive drugs over the internet. She stated: “…I believe psychiatry is a fundamentally political activity. It is one of the informal social control apparatus that society has delegated to manage behavior that is socially problematic. Calling it a medical specialty disguises this fact and deprives people of the level of oversight and scrutiny that would be considered necessary if this was acknowledged.”[14]

CCHR wants people to be better informed if advised to take psychotropic drugs during these current times when they are most vulnerable. As these drugs don’t cure, and the temporary “relief” people may feel subsides, it can lead to the recommendation of adding an antipsychotic to an antidepressant.  Long-term use of antipsychotics can permanently damage the nervous system. Or electroshock treatment—the passage of 460 volts of electricity through the brain can be prescribed, further damaging the brain and body. All this can make recovery hard, if not impossible. Sign CCHR’s Petition to Ban ECT.


[1] “Americans are taking more anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants during coronavirus pandemic: report,” The Hill, 16 Apr. 2020,; “Prescriptions for antidepressants, anti-anxiety, anti-insomnia drugs jumps 21% post COVID-19,” Fierce Healthcare, 16 Apr. 2020,


[3] Op. cit., Fierce Healthcare, 16 Apr. 2020


[5] Martin Plöderl, PhD & Michael P. Hengartner, Ph.D., “Suicides Are Increasing – And So Are Antidepressant Prescriptions,” MAD, 23 Aug. 2018,

[6] “Antidepressant withdrawal can be a horrible experience — are tapering strips a potential solution?,” The Pharmaceutical Journal, 8  Apr. 2020,

[7] Phil Hickey, “SSRIs:  Minimal Effectiveness and High Risk,” Behaviorism and Mental Health, 9 Mar. 2017,

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

[9] Ibid.




[13] “Psychiatry and the Human Condition: Joanna Moncrieff, MD,” Psychiatric Times, 10 Apr. 2020,

[14] Ibid.