Repurposing Psychotropic Drugs to Treat Physical Ills Puts Patients in Danger

Increased mental health funding, without accountability, and the repurposing of mind-altering drugs spells only profits for the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry while delivering more harm rather than legitimate help to people suffering.

CCHR, a 50-year mental health industry watchdog says its research into toxic psychiatric drug effects has expanded again recently because of recent announcements that psychiatric drugs are being repurposed during CV19

Jan Eastgate
President CCHR International
May 12, 2020

Psychotropic drugs with debilitating, potentially lethal toxic side effects are being repurposed for treating COVID-19. Still in their testing stage, The New York Times reported that the antipsychotic, chlorpromazine (Thorazine)—known as a “chemical lobotomy”—is one of two antipsychotics being considered.[1] The other is haloperidol (Haldol).[2] Antidepressants, Prozac and Luvox are also both being studied. Citizens Commission on Human Rights International is expanding its research into how psychotropic drugs are being repurposed and who may be profiting from this at risk of patients’ lives. CCHR reiterates that consumers should use its online psychiatric drugs side effects search engine to become better informed.

Chlorpromazine was Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 1954, promising to “revolutionize the treatment of mental disease.”[3] But the drug was so sedating, it gave rise to the term “Thorazine shuffle.”[4] Patients become sluggish, apathetic and spoke in “slow monotones.”[5] By the 1990s, 100,000 Americans had died from the drug’s fatal side effect, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.[6] Thorazine and other antipsychotics also cause tardive dyskinesia (TD), which irreversibly damages the nervous system and is marked by uncontrolled muscle movements in the face (chewing, lip smacking, frowning, tongue movement, blinking or eye movement). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) investigators found a 100% increase of incidence of drug-induced TD between 1960 and 1980.[7] Today, up to 30% of those taking older or atypical (new) antipsychotics long-term can develop TD.[8]

When drug patents ran out and the adverse effects were so widespread, newer (atypical) antipsychotics were approved in the 1990s.  By 2003, The New York Times warned that these antipsychotics were as bad as those they replaced. They cause obesity, diabetes, stroke, cardiac events, respiratory problems, delusional thinking and psychosis; studies also say they could cause brain atrophy (shrinkage).[9] Despite this, over 1 million Americans ages 0-17 are prescribed antipsychotics.[10]

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports that patients treated with another antipsychotic, clozapine, are highly vulnerable to influenza or its complications if they catch it, including pneumonia. The risk is so high that patients taking it are strongly advised to have the flu-vaccination.[11] Clozapine can cause severe neutropenia, which is a condition where there are insufficient white blood cells that fight infections and can lead to fatal infections. Because of this risk, clozapine in the U.S. is available only through a restricted program under a Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy (REMS) called the Clozapine REMS Program.[12]

As early as 1999, The Journal of Toxicology reported that the atypical antipsychotics “will soon account for the majority of poisonings from antipsychotic agents that present to health care facilities in the U.S.”[13]

As for antidepressants now being repurposed, Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith at the University of Toledo believes fluoxetine can decrease inflammation evident in the later stages of COVID-19. Researchers are investigating whether “as soon as they think they have COVID-19, have the symptoms or have tested positive to give fluoxetine early on and try and prevent problems,” McCullumsmith said.[14]

The list of antidepressant adverse reactions is lengthy: suicidality, mania, psychosis, depression, hallucinations, abnormal dreams, abnormal thinking, depersonalization, paranoid reaction, delusions, confusion and violent behavior to name a few.[15] SSRIs can also cause life-threatening serotonin (main active ingredient) syndrome and has been documented in all age groups.[16] The U.S. Toxic Exposure Surveillance System consistently reports tens of thousands of exposures to SSRIs, many of which involve serotonin syndrome. This manifests in agitation; slow, continuous, horizontal eye movements; akathisia (drug-induced movement disorder); tremor and muscle rigidity.[17]

Fourteen years after Prozac came on the market, studies showed that up to 65% of the millions who had taken SSRI antidepressants had not been helped. People experienced emotional numbing, restlessness, and memory lapses.[18] Sexual dysfunction affected 60% of the patients.[19] Withdrawal effects can also be serious.

Repurposing drugs serves a lucrative psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry that has lost money when drug patents run out and they don’t want to bear the costs of developing new drugs. Instead, they repurpose existing ones for new indications and, potentially, new patents. According to Harry Tracy, whose newsletter NeuroPerspective tracks developments in drug treatments for psychiatric problems: “In general the larger companies have walked away from psychiatry.” Further, “There are a few companies who have maintained efforts in the area but 70% tells you it’s been a pretty remarkable departure.”[20]

Today, 11 U.S. labs are running clinical trials to test the theory that MDMA, better known as the street drug, ecstasy, can help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.[21] Yet, the National Institute of Drug Abuse warns that the drug causes involuntary jaw clenching, illogical or disorganized thoughts, panic attacks and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness and seizures.[22] MDMA is also addictive, can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and can raise heart rate to a dangerous level.[23]

None of these drugs have historically solved, nor or are they currently solving, any mental dilemma or disorder:

  • Post WWII, American Psychiatric Association (APA) president Karl Bowman cautioned: “It is perhaps well to call public attention to the fact that we have not yet solved the problem of mental disease….” In 1998, the American Journal of Psychiatry, confirmed: “Our diagnoses are nowhere near the precision of the diagnostic processes in the rest of medicine.”[24] Nearly a decade later, a National Institutes of Health’ Biological Sciences Curriculum Study confirmed that scientists did not know the causes of any mental illnesses.[25] This was later reinforced by psychiatrist Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH, who said the APA’s latest version of it Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders was “at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each….The weakness is its lack of validity… the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.”[26]
  • In 2010, Insel called on his fellow psychiatrists to “clean up our act,” and remove the “culture of influence” created by the money flow between pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists.[27] Today, he is an investor in a company developing the hallucinogenic drug, psilocybin for “treatment-resistant depression.” The company, Compass, is running a 216-patient Phase 2B ­clinical trial—typically the second-to-last stage before a drug gets the FDA’s nod—and has made enough synthetic doses of the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms to supply more than 30,000 patients, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.[28]
  • In the 1960s, the Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) program promised these were the solution to all institutional problems. Under the direction of Dr. Jack R. Ewalt, then chairman of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Federal commission spent six years drawing up a 300-page report that became the blueprint for deinstitutionalization, and involved emptying psychiatric institutions, largely resting upon the use of Thorazine.[29] Ewalt claimed: “The program should serve the troubled, the disturbed, the slow, the ill, and the healthy of all age groups….” It failed and the centers simply became psychotropic drug agencies, where, as author Peter Schrag said, enough neuroleptic drugs and antidepressants “were being prescribed outside hospitals to keep some three to four million people medicated full-time—roughly 10 times the number who, according to the [psychiatrists’] own arguments, are so crazy that they would have to be locked up in hospitals if there were no drugs.”[30] Indeed, Dr. Robert H. Felix, another director of the NIMH and an architect of the policy of CMHCs, admitted, “There was some overselling of drugs as a panacea.”[31]
  • As part of the recent Federal stimulus package, $4 billion was allocated for community health centers, which is $1.32 billion over current fiscal year 2020 funding levels.[32] This is on top of the National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, spending $2.7 billion overall on studying mental health, as reported in 2018.[33] Yet psychiatrists are no further ahead in understanding “mental illness” than they were in WWII.

Today’s Federal and State legislators are unlikely briefed on how increased mental health funding, without accountability, and the repurposing of mind-altering drugs spells only profits for the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry while delivering more harm rather than legitimate help to people suffering.


[1] “Old Drugs May Find a New Purpose: Fighting the Coronavirus,” New York Times, 30 April 2020,

[2] “At least 10 existing drugs could weaken Covid-19, study says,”

[3] Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, (Perseus Publishing, 2002), pp. 152-153.


[5] Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill,  p. 143.

[6] Ibid, p. 208, citing Estimates of incidence rates for NMS vary from 0.2% to 1.4%.  At a rate of 0.8%, that would mean approx. 24,000 cases annually from the 1960s to the 1980s (with 3 million Americans on the drugs), with total deaths of 5,280 (24,000 x 22% mortality rate) annually.  Over a 22 year period, that would lead to more than 100,000 deaths.  At 4%, the number would be 20,000.

[7] Vera Hassner Sharav, MLS, “Children in Clinical Research: A Conflict of Moral Values,” The American Journal of Bioethics 3 (1): InFocus, 2003.

[8] “Tardive dyskinesia: What you need to know,” Medical News Today, 29 Nov. 2017,

[9] Erica Goode, “Leading Drugs for Psychosis Come Under New Scrutiny,” The New York Times, 20 May 2003,;


[11] “Covid-19: outbreak could last until spring 2021 and see 7.9 million hospitalised in the UK,” BMJ 2020,


[13] Michael J. Burns, “The Pharmacology and Toxicology of Atypical Antipsychotic Agents,” Journal of Toxicology, 1 Jan. 2001.





[18] “Antidepressants Lift Clouds, But Lose ‘Miracle Drug’ Label,” The New York Times, 30 June 2002.

[19] Joseph Glenmullen, Prozac Backlash (Simon & Schuster, 2000), p. 8.

[20] “Why ‘big pharma’ stopped searching for the next Prozac,” The Guardian, 27. Jan 2016,

[21] “Shroom-Therapy Startup Edges Toward FDA Approval: The feds have designated Compass Pathways’ experimental psilocybin treatment for depression a ‘breakthrough therapy,’” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6 Jan. 2020,






[28] “Shroom-Therapy Startup Edges Toward FDA Approval: The feds have designated Compass Pathways’ experimental psilocybin treatment for depression a ‘breakthrough therapy,’” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6 Jan. 2020,


[30] Peter Schrag, Mind Control (Pantheon Books, New York, 1978), p. 45.