Psychiatric drugs causing heart disease

As reported in a US News and World Report article, Antipsychotic drugs raise heart risk, experts warn, the number 1 cause of death among people in mental health treatment is heart disease. This heart disease is usually a result of metabolic changes brought on by the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs.

The authors of an editorial in the Feb. 19 issue of The Lancet noted that patients with severe mental illness live an average of 16 years less than people in the general population. Heart disease, not suicide, is the major cause of death in these patients and antipsychotic drugs are a factor.

These heart conditions are linked to the excessive weight gain that is often seen in patients who take the newer atypical neuroleptic psychiatric drugs developed to have fewer irritating effects than the older neuroleptic drugs.

A study published recently in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that patients who took an antipsychotic drug gained 11 to 13 pounds within six to eight weeks after they starting taking the drug.

The authors of the study on which the article is based seem to be missing the real point of the matter. Alternatives to conventional mental health treatments that use these psychiatric drugs, often to excess, need to be developed and explored if the physical health of people in mental health treatment is to improve at all.

They concluded: “Antipsychotic drugs are a clear risk to cardiometabolic health. This risk is, all too often, a necessary one. But the trade-off between mental and physical well-being is one that no patient should be forced to make. The mind-body dichotomy is both outdated and dangerous. The price of good mental health must not be a lifetime of physical illness.”

Calling the risk a necessary one the authors are downplaying the possibility of resorting to other methods of treatments besides drugs. This is unfortunate. When choice is respected, and when alternatives to conventional drug treatments are made readily available, mental health treatment has a chance to become something besides the death sentence that it currently, according to the statistics, is.

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