Peter R. Breggin, M.D. 
Fifty Years of Psychiatric Reform 
Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
The Conscience of Psychiatry 
in Psychiatric Reform

Professional reform accomplishments of Peter R. Breggin, M.D. span more than five decades.  These accomplishments include: 

*Stopping the wide scale resurgence of lobotomy and psychosurgery on adults and children, and the stopping of all known psychosurgery on children and all psychosurgery in federal and state institutions (1970s).  This was a major project requiring many hours of volunteer work per week for several years.
It is described in many publications, including the War Against Children of Color (1998, coauthored by Ginger Breggin):

*Wrote federal legislation to ban federal funding of psychosurgery (1970s).

*Worked with Congress to create the federal Psychosurgery Commission that declared the treatment experimental and not suitable for routine clinical application (1970s).

*Worked with Congress to create and testified at the Kennedy Hearings on Psychosurgery (1970s).

*Consultant and Medical Expert in first successful psychosurgery malpractice case with a $7.5 million verdict against the Cleveland Clinic in June 2002.  The Cleveland Clinic has stopped performing psychosurgery and only two ongoing psychosurgery projects have been identified in the United States.

*Alerting the profession to the danger of tardive dyskinesia in children (1983).  Tardive dyskinesia is a potentially devastating neurological disorder caused by neuroleptic or antipsychotic drugs. 

*Alerting the profession to the danger of dementia produced by longer-term use of neuroleptic drugs (1983). 

*Causing the FDA to force the drug companies to put in their labels for neuroleptic drugs a new class warning on tardive dyskinesia (1985).  

*Causing the withdrawal of a large multi-agency federal program to perform dangerous invasive experiments on inner-city children in search of supposed genetic and biochemical causes of violence (the violence initiative) (early 1990s).  

*Causing the initial cancellation and later modification of a potentially racist federally sponsored conference on the genetics of violence (early 1990s).

*Exposing the channeling of drug company funds to individual researchers at NIH through the intermediary foundation, FAES, leading to cancellation of this program, circa 1994.

*Alerting the profession to danger of down-regulation and dangerous withdrawal reactions from the new SSRI antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil (1992-4).    

*Alerting the profession and the public to the flawed nature of controlled clinical trials in determining efficacy and safety (1994, Talking Back to Prozac).  Now many the problems are generally recognized.  

*Developing the scientific basis for all of the combined Prozac product liability cases against Eli Lilly and Co.  Dozens of these cases have been quietly settled by the drug company.  Only one of my cases has gone to court (Fentress v., in Louisville, Kentucky, the "Wesbecker Case").  I provided much of the background research and testified as a expert in psychiatry and the FDA drug approval process.  The suit was secretly settled during trial without informing the judge.  The plaintiffs accepted a huge settlement in return for providing the jury with a weakened presentation of the case against the defendant drug company. The jury found for the defendants by a 9-3 vote.  Afterward, the Supreme Court of Kentucky found in regard to Eli Lilly, "In this case, there was a serious lack of candor with the trial court and there may have been deception, bad faith conduct, abuse of the judicial process and perhaps even fraud."  The trial judge, John Potter, was empowered to change the jury verdict to "settled with prejudice" against Lilly.

*Monitoring and at times modifying or stopping unethical, hazardous experimental research on children (1973 to the present).

*Providing criticism of the supposed biological basis of ADHD and the analysis of potentially damaging effects of stimulant medication.  Following my scientific testimony, many of my views and concerns were confirmed by the final report of the NIH Consensus Development Conference on The Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in November 1998.

*Providing criticism of the escalating tendency to give psychiatric drugs to preschoolers.  Our center was the first to raise this issue.  In 1998 we informed the International Narcotics Control Board about the drugging of children as young as two; the World Health Organization agency then issued a warning about it.  In Talking Back to Ritalin (1998) I made one the first analyses of the dangers of these drugs in young children.  More recently, a report and an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed the gravity of the problem.  In March 2000 in response to public outcry raised partly in response to our national educational efforts, the White House (Hillary Clinton) made a public statement showing concern about the medicating of preschoolers.

*Providing the basis for the original Ritalin Class Action Suit.  The model Ritalin class action suit against the manufacturer, Novartis, as well as CHADD and the American Psychiatric Association, was brought by C. Andrew Waters of Dallas, Texas in 2001, based on Talking Back to Ritalin and other publications by Peter Breggin and in consultation with him.  Multiple suits have been brought since then.

*Helping to motivate and inform state legislation, including Connecticut, limiting the power of teachers and school officials to discuss the use of medication and psychiatric diagnoses with the parents of children in their care. 

*Consulting in 2001-2002 as the medical expert in a California suit against Glaxo SmithKline concerning the failure of the Paxil label to describe withdrawal reactions to the antidepressant drug.  The "resolution" of the suit included a change in the label so that withdrawal reactions are now listed and described.  The label changes were published on the company website in 2002 and will appear in the 2003 Physicians' Desk Reference.  In his scientific publications, Peter Breggin was among the first to warn about SSRI withdrawal problems.

*As early as 1991 in Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Breggin warned that the SSRI antidepressants (Prozac was the first, followed by Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and others) could cause suicide, violence and other dangerous behaviors.  He continued to document this in subsequent books such as Talking Back to Prozac (1994 with Ginger Breggin), Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (1997) and The Antidepressant Fact Book (2001) as well as in scientific articles and legal testimony.  In 2004 he testified in public hearings before the FDA concerning the stimulant or activation profile of these drugs and their tendency to cause suicidality, violence, and mania.  In January 2005 the FDA confirmed what Dr. Breggin had been saying for almost fifteen years and changed the labels for antidepressants to include warnings about suicide in children, and about the whole array of stimulant symptoms, including aggression, hostility, irritability, emotional lability and mania in children and adults.  Then in 2006 the FDA issued an alert stating that a review of Paxil adverse effects showed increased suicidality in adults.  For many years, Dr. Breggin had been testifying about Paxil-induced suicide in court and publishing data on the subject, including a new report in Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry shortly before the FDA's decision.

While each of these critiques and reform projects was initially considered highly controversial, and while each was frequently opposed by organized psychiatry, most are now accepted as rational and ethical by medicine in general. 

For example, psychosurgery is no longer widely practiced and not at all in state or federal institutions or on children in the United States; the multi-agency federal research program aimed at using invasive procedures on inner-city child has been disbanded; the conference on the genetics of violence was delayed and then vastly modified; all experts now recognize the dangers of tardive dyskinesia in children; many researchers have confirmed that the neuroleptic drugs produce dementia; experienced doctors now recognize the potential for dangerous withdrawal effects from the SSRIs; and the controversy surrounding ADHD and stimulant medication has been confirmed by the NIH Consensus Development Conference. Finally, Dr. Breggin's professional efforts as a medical expert have resulted in the FDA changing numerous official drug labels.

For more information and interesting historical details about Dr. Peter Breggin's decades of psychiatric reform work, see The Conscience of Psychiatry: The Reform Work of Peter R Breggin, MD. 

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Peter R. Breggin MD
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Copyright 2010-2021 Peter R Breggin MD

Peter R. Breggin, MD is no longer affiliated with the Center for the Study of Psychiatry, informally known as International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, which he founded and led from 1972-2002,  and Dr. Breggin is no longer involved in its October conference.   Peter Breggin and many of his closest colleagues will be holding their new annual spring conference April 8-10, 2011.  Details are available at the new Breggin reform website: