Peter Breggin

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Peter R. Breggin is a controversial American psychiatrist, best known as a leader of Anti-psychiatry movement. He is a critic of biological psychiatry and psychiatric medication, and as the author of books such as Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, Talking Back to Ritalin, and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry.

Early career and background

Breggin's background includes Harvard College, Case Western Reserve Medical School, a teaching fellowship at Harvard Medical School, a two-year staff appointment to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and a faculty appointment to the Johns Hopkins University Department of Counseling. Breggin has been in practice since 1968.

Founder of Psychiatric Journal and Organization

In 1971, Dr. Breggin founded the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP), a nonprofit research and educational network. The Center is dedicated to shedding light upon the impact of mental health theory and practices upon individual well-being, personal freedom, and family and community values. In 2002 he also founded the peer-review journal, "Ethical Human Sciences and Services", renamed as "Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry". This journal "is the official journal of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry".[1] The stated goal of the publication is to, "raise the level of scientific knowledge and ethical discourse, while empowering professionals who are devoted to principled human sciences and services unsullied by professional and economic interests".[2]

Critic of conventional psychiatry

Dr. Breggin concentrates on the iatrogenic effects (negative side effects) of psychiatric medications, arguing that the impact of negative side effects typically outweighs any benefit. Breggin also argues that psychosocial interventions are almost always superior in treating mental illness. He stated; "I don't believe in the psychiatric drugs myself. I've been in practice since 1968, and I've never started anyone on psychiatric drugs".[3] For over three decades, he has campaigned against psychoactive drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery, coercive involuntary treatment, and biological theories of psychiatry.

According to Dr. Breggin, the pharmaceutical industry propagates disinformation which is accepted by unsuspecting doctors, "The psychiatrist accepts the bad science that establishes the existence of all these mental diseases in the first place. From there it’s just a walk down the street to all the drugs as remedies". He points out problems with conflicts-of-interest (such as the financial relationships between drug companies, researchers, and the American Psychiatric Association). Breggin states psychiatric drugs, "...are all, every class of them, highly dangerous". He asserts: "If neuroleptics were used to treat anyone other than mental patients, they would have been banned a long time ago. If their use wasn't supported by powerful interest groups, such as the pharmaceutical industry and organized psychiatry, they would be rarely used at all. Meanwhile, the neuroleptics have produced the worst epidemic of neurological disease in history. At the least, their use should be severely curtailed."[3]

In a recent book, Reclaiming Our Children, he calls for the ethical treatment of children and argues that our society's mistreatment of children is a national tragedy (including the role of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse). He also objects to prescribing psychiatric medications to preschoolers, stating that this is risky and potentially harmful to their developing brains and nervous systems.[4]

Criticism of ADHD and Ritalin

The New York Times has labeled Dr. Breggin as the nation's best-known ADHD critic. As early as 1991 he coined the acronym DADD, stating, "...most so-called ADHD children are not receiving sufficient attention from their fathers who are separated from the family, too preoccupied with work and other things, or otherwise impaired in their ability to parent. In many cases the appropriate diagnosis is Dad Attention Deficit Disorder (DADD)". Breggin his written two books specifically on the topic entitled, Talking Back to Ritalin and The Ritalin Factbook. In these books he has made some controversial claims such as, "Ritalin "works" by producing malfunctions in the brain rather than by improving brain function. This is the only way it works".[5] Forbes credited Breggin with "almost single-handedly reenergizing the anti-Ritalin contingent", which lead to a "flurry of lawsuits and news stories".[6]Breggin also testified to Congress with Fred Baughman. In Congress Dr. Breggin claimed "that there were no scientific studies validating ADHD, that all these kids needed was "discipline and better instruction", and that therapeutic stimulants "are the most addictive drugs known in medicine today".[7] PBS Frontline also did a five part TV series entitled 'Medicating Kids', which was specifically about ADHD. Fred Baughman and Dr. Breggin were the major critics used in this series.[8] In an interview during this time period he referred to ADHD as a "fiction". This increased critical attention to Ritalin culminated with the Ritalin class action lawsuits against Novartis, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and CHADD in which the plaintiffs sued for fraud. Specifically, they charged that the defendants had conspired to invent and promote the disorder ADHD to create a highly profitable market for the drug Ritalin. At the time, these cases were considered "the next tobacco" and garnered national media attention.[9] Dr. Breggin was the medical consultant for several of the class action lawsuits. All five lawsuits were dismissed or withdrawn before they went to trial.

Criticism of SSRI antidepressants

In the early 1990s, Dr. Breggin pointed out the problems with research methodology in the research of SSRI antidepressants. In 2005, the FDA began requiring "black-box" warnings on SSRIs, warning of an association between SSRI use and suicidal behavior in children.[10] In 2006, the FDA expanded the warnings to include adults taking Paxil (which is associated with a higher risk of suicidal behavior as compared to placebo[11]). These policy actions were taken approximately 15 years after Dr. Breggin first wrote about the subject.

Dr. Breggin believes his contributions have gone uncredited. In contrast to Breggin's early work on Prozac, which was largely ignored, Prozac Backlash, a critique of SSRIs by Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, was widely praised by high-profile media sources.[12] This was addressed by Dr.Breggin in a subsequent book, The Antidepressant Fact Book:

"Glenmullen's (2000) scientific analysis of how SSRIs can cause suicide, violence, and other behavioral aberrations is essentially the same as my earlier detailed hundreds of media appearances, and my testimony in court cases that Glenmullen also had available. Glenmullen also interviewed my wife and coauthor Ginger Breggin for his book and was sent research documents from our files that he was otherwise unable to obtain. Disappointingly, in his book, Glenmullen literally expurgates our contribution, never mentioning my origination of the ideas he was espousing and never acknowledging my efforts...Nonetheless, his book provides a service..."[13]

Glenmullen has never countered Breggin's assertion and they both presented at the annual conference (in Queens, NY in 2004) of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology.

Criticism of ECT

Dr. Breggin has written several books critical of electroconvulsive therapy. He is quoted by Time Magazine as stating, "...the damage produces delirium so severe that patients can't fully experience depression or other higher mental functions during the several weeks after electroshock".

Controversial commentary

Due to his outspoken criticisms of many aspects of psychiatry, Dr. Breggin has become a controversial figure regularly at odds with the mainstream mental health establishment. He uses terms like "fraud" to describe mental disorders, the medication used to treat these disorders, and the political process that determines the labels used for diagnosing mental disorders. He has also consistently warned about conflict of interest problems. [14] These claims often challenge accepted standards of care within the mental health field and have led to highly critical rebuttals.[15] In 1994, the president of the American Psychiatric Association called Breggin a "flat-earther" (suggesting he embraced outdated theories); the head of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) called Breggin "ignorant"; and the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health called him an "outlaw."[16]

Although he regularly critiques [17] and has written reviews [18] of the scientific literature, Dr. Breggin has not published controlled, independent peer reviewed research to substantiate his claims. He has been accused, by critics, of cherry picking information from the research of others to draw unrelated conclusions.[19] Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch, a retired psychiatrist and critic of Breggin, has stated; "he would like you to believe that his clinical experiences and investigations have enabled him to reach a level of insight that is greater than that of the majority of mental health professionals".[20] Russell Barkley, an expert in ADHD, has also expressed reservations about Breggin's ideas. "...the flaws of both his research methods and his arguments are evident to any scientist even slightly familiar with the scientific literature".[21]

In 1987, NAMI brought a lawsuit against Dr. Breggin. They were upset about remarks he made on the Oprah Winfrey Show on April 2, 1987. He stated that mental health clients should judge their clinicians in terms of their empathy and support; if they tried to prescribe drugs during the first session, he advised such clients to seek assistance elsewhere. He also pointed out the iatrogenic effects of neuroleptic drugs. He was defended by a diverse group of psychiatrists and others who defended his right to publicly state his critical opinion.[22] Breggin was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Maryland medical board.[23] Time magazine has noted that other mental health professionals worry that "Breggin reinforces the myth that mental illness is not real, that you wouldn't be ill if you'd pull yourself up by the bootstraps...his views stop people from getting treatment. They could cost a life."[24]

Expert witness

Dr. Breggin has had a mixed record in the court system. He has been involved in cases that won large verdicts for patients disabled by the iatrogenic effects of psychiatric drugs[25][26][27][28] as well as having his testimony accepted in criminal trials regarding the iatrogenic effects of antidepressant medications.[29]

Breggin testified as an expert witness in the Wesbecker case (Fentress et al., 1994), a lawsuit against Eli Lilly, makers of Prozac. Ultimately, the jury found for Eli Lilly. It was later revealed that the plaintiffs and defendants had secretly settled behind closed doors. [30][31] Breggin alleges that pharmaceutical manufacturers have committed ad hominem attacks upon him in the form of linking him to Scientology campaigns against psychiatric drugs. In particular, Breggin levels this accusation against Eli Lilly. Breggin acknowledges that he did work with Scientology starting in 1972, but states that by 1974 he "found Template:Interpolation opposed to Scientology's values, agenda, and tactics", and in consequence "stopped all cooperative efforts in 1974 and publicly declared Template:Interpolation criticism of the group in a letter published in Reason." [32] Breggin has also stated that he has personal reasons to dislike Scientology since his wife, Ginger, was once a member. [32] [14]

Some judges have questioned Breggin's credibility in some cases where he was called as an expert witness. For example, a Maryland judge in a medical malpractice case in 1995 said, "I believe that his bias in this case is blinding. . . he was mistaken in a lot of the factual basis for which he expressed his opinion". In that same year a Virginia judge excluded Breggin's testimony stating, "This court finds that the evidence of Peter Breggin, as a purported expert, fails nearly all particulars under the standard set forth in Daubert and its progeny. . . Simply put, the Court believes that Dr. Breggin's opinions do not rise to the level of an opinion based on 'good science'".

In 2002, Dr. Breggin was hired as an expert witness by a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre in a case against the makers of an anti-depressant drug. In his report, Dr. Breggin failed to mention the Columbine incident or one of the killers, instead focusing on the medication taken by the other, "...Eric Harris was suffering from a substance induced (Luvox-induced) mood disorder with depressive and manic features that had reached a psychotic level of violence and suicide. Absent persistent exposure to Luvox, Eric Harris probably would not have committed violence and suicide". [33]. However, according to The Denver Post, the judge of the case..."was visibly angry that the experts failed to view evidence prior to their depositions" even though they had months to do so. The evidence would have included hundreds of documents including a significant amount of video and audio tape that the killers had recorded. The judge stated,"..lawyers will be free to attack them on the basis of the evidence they haven't seen and haven't factored into their opinions". [34]. The lawsuit was eventually dropped with the stipulation that the makers of Luvox donate $10,000 to the American Cancer Society.[35]

In 2005, a court disqualified the testimony of Breggin because it did not meet the scientific rigor established by the Frye Standard. The judge stated "...Breggin spends 14 pages critiquing the treatment provided not because it ran counter to the acceptable standards of care, but because it ran counter to Breggin’s personal ideas and ideologies of what the standards ought to be.” [36] [37]

Publishing and research

Since 1964 he has published on his major topic of interest, clinical psychopharmacology, and has authored dozens of other articles and nineteen books. Many of Breggin's more recent articles are published in the peer-reviewed journal he founded, Ethical Human Sciences and Services, and in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. Many of his published works deal with psychiatric medication, the FDA and drug approval process, the evaluation of clinical trials, and standards of care in psychiatry and related fields. Breggin does not accept any money from pharmaceutical companies.[citation needed]

Breggin now lives and practices in Ithaca, New York, where he treats children, adults and families.


Selected scholarly works

  • Breggin, P.R. (2006). Court filing makes public my previously suppressed analysis of Paxil's effects. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 77-84.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2006). Recent regulatory changes in antidepressant labels: Implications of activation (stimulation) for clinical practice. Primary Psychiatry, 13(1), 57-60.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2004). Recent U.S., Canadian and British regulatory agency actions concerning antidepressant-induced harm to self and others: A review and analysis. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine,16, 247-259.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2003). Suicidality, violence and mania caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): A review and analysis. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 16, 31-49.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2000). Psychopharmacology and human values. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 43, 34-49.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2000). The psychiatric drugging of toddlers. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 2(2), 83-86.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2000). The NIMH multimodal study of treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A critical analysis. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 13,15-22.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2001). From Prozac to Ecstasy: The implications of new evidence for drug-induced brain damage. Ethical Human Sciences and Services, 3(1), 3-5.
  • Breggin, P.R. (2000). What psychologists and psychotherapists need to know about ADHD and stimulants. Changes: An International Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy,18,13-23.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1999). Psychostimulants in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD: Risks and mechanism of action. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 12, 3-35.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1998). Psychotherapy in emotional crises without resort to psychiatric medication. The Humanistic Psychologist, 25, 2-14.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1998). Analysis of adverse behavioral effects of benzodiazepines with a discussion on drawing scientific conclusions from the FDA's spontaneous reporting system. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 19(1), 21-50.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1994). Should the use of neuroleptics be severely limited? Controversial Issues in Mental Health, edited by S.A. Kirk and S.D. Einbinder, pp. 146-152.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1990). Brain damage, dementia and persistent cognitive dysfunction associated with neuroleptic drugs: Evidence, etiology, implications. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11, 425-464.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1986). Neuropathology and cognitive dysfunction From ECT (Electroconvulsive/"shock" therapy). Psychopharmacology Bulletin , 22, 476-479.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1982). The return of lobotomy and psychosurgery. Reprinted in R.B. Edwards (ed.): Psychiatry and Ethics. Buffalo, Prometheus Books, 1982. Published earlier in Quality of Health Care-Human Experimentation: Hearings Before Senator Edward Kennedy's Subcommittee on Health, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C., US Government Printing Office, 1973.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1982). Coercion of voluntary patients in an open hospital. In R.B. Edwards(ed): Psychiatry and Ethics. Prometheus Books, 1982. Reprinted from Breggin, P.R. (1964). Archives of General Psychiatry, 10, 173-181.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1980). Brain-disabling therapies. In E. Valenstein (ed.), The Psychosurgery Debate, W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, CA, 1980.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1975). Psychosurgery for the Control of violence: A critical review. In W. Fields and W. Sweet (eds.), Neural Bases of Violence and Aggression, Warren H. Green, Inc., St. Louis, MO, 350-378, 1975.
  • Breggin, P.R. (1971). Psychotherapy as applied ethics. Psychiatry, 34, 59-75.


  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. "The Psychiatric Drugging of Toddlers" (PDF). Editorial by Peter R. Breggin. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  10. "Black Box Warning for Children and Suicidality" (PDF). FDA Website. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  11. "Paxil Black Black Box Warning". FDA Website. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  12. "Media Reviews of Prozac Backlash". From J. Glenmullen's Website. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  13. "The Antidepressant Fact Book, pg. 207". Breggin, P.R. (2001). ISBN 0-7382-0451-X. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "medicating kids: interviews: peter breggin". PBS - Frontline. 2000-05-03. Retrieved 2006-07-29. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. "Prozac's Worst Enemy". Christine Gorman, Time Magazine, Oct 10, 1994. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  17. Breggin PR. MTA Study has flaws. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001. 58:1184. PMID 11735849
  18. Breggin PR. Parallels between neuroleptic effects and encephalitis lethargica: the production of dyskinesias and cognitive disorders. Brain Cogn. 1993. 23:8-27. PMID 8105824
  19. Barkley, Russell, Ph.D. "ADHD, Ritalin, and Conspiracies: Talking Back to Peter Breggin". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  20. Stephen Barrett, MD. "Some Notes on ADHD and Peter R. Breggin's Unfair Attack on Ritalin". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  22. "Free Expression or Irresponsibility? Psychiatrist Faces a Hearing Today". Daniel Goleman, New York Times, September 22, 1987. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  23. "Psychiatrist says Panel Cleared Him". Associated Press article in New York Times, September 24, 1987. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  25. "1.6 Million Dollar Verdict in Perphenazine Tardive Dyskinesia Case". Perphenazine Press Release from Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  26. "6.7 Million Dollar Verdict in Risperdal Tardive Dyskinesia Case". Risperdal Case Press Release from Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  27. "7.5 Million Dollar Verdict in Psychosurgery Case". Cleveland Clinic Psychosurgery Press Release from Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  28. "TD Case Settled After Breggin Testifies". TD Settlement Press Release from Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  29. "Criminal Sentencing and SSRI Medications". Press Release SSRIs and Sentencing from Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  30. "Fentress Case Analysis". 'Lectric Law Library. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  31. "Eli Lilly, Missing Documents, Fentress Verdict" (PDF). A Report by Peter Breggin. Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Joe McCarthy Lives!: He's whispering in the ear of Eli Lilly & Co., the manufacturer of Prozac". Dr. Breggin's comments on Eli Lilly, Scientology and his relationship with it. Retrieved 2006-07-08.

External links

  • - Dr. Breggin's homepage
  • - International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, founded by Dr. Breggin
  • - Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
  • - The Truth About Psychiatry
  • - The Antipsychiatry Coalition
  • - 'Lessons From the Ritalin Class Action Victories' (Interview of James O'Neal, former defense counsel for Ritalin manufacturer)
  • - 'Activist Attention Disorder', Steven Milloy (August 25, 2001)
  • - 'What Makes an 'Expert' an Expert?' Steven Milloy (September 13, 2002)
  • - 'Breggin Revealed' (Medical Knowledgebase forum thread)
  • - 'Some Notes on ADHD and Peter R. Breggin's Unfair Attack on Ritalin', Stephen Barrett, MD (September 23, 2002)
  • - 'Peter Breggin - Libertarian', Bill Winter

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