MFI has reports of an alarming increase in the use of brain altering technology for the psychiatric purposes, and issued this statement.

Example of an rTMS high-powered device in use today.

MindFreedom International Statement on the Rise of Brain Altering Technologies Today

by David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International

Because of anecdotal reports, medical articles and news stories we’ve seen this past decade, MindFreedom activists are concerned that the amount of psychosurgery is again on the rise internationally in the 21st century. Since the  decline of psychosurgery in the 1950’s and ’60’s, psychosurgeons have generally kept a low profile, and this may be why accurate statistics have been difficult to obtain.

Major media (Utne, Mother Jones, etc.) have definitely noted the worrisome emergence of newer ‘brain altering technologies’ — such as varieties of stimulus implants — that appear to us meet the accepted definition of psychosurgery: destruction of healthy brain tissue to change behavior.

There are also new non-surgical but profoundly intrusive procedures such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) that are currently being tested on human subjects, and that raise similar issues such as a concern about brain damage.

Brain altering technology is brain altering technology, and ought to raise a red flag when it comes to bioethics.

Also, while some media focus on this fascinating subject of brain altering technology, the same media is ignoring the elephant in the living room here:

It’s very important to note that in the past decade, mainstream medical evidence has emerged that long-term high-dosage use of the main psychiatric drug prescribed since the 1950’s for people diagnosed schizophrenic — neuroleptics — is linked to structural brain changes so severe that these drug-induced changes are visible in brain scans, including actual shrinkage of the frontal lobes, actual less gray matter in the brain! That phenomenon has been confirmed by animal studies and autopsies. Even though the medical research community is discussing this emerging alarming evidence, the public, media and decision-makers have generally not been informed. Instead some mental health professionals have been side-tracked with debates about whether mental health problems themselves are related to brain changes, which is a totally different issue.

It’s time that society called the prescription of long-term high-dosage neuroleptics and similar drugs exactly and precisely what they are: chemical lobotomies.

Thus, the University of Pennsylvania experiments with implantable disks that can time release neuroleptics for a year to increase compliance bring up similar ethical issues as psychosurgery.

And public debates about the forced administration of neuroleptics are especially hollow if the issue of drug-induced brain damage continues to be ignored.

There is no doubt that psychiatric brain-altering is on the rise internationally, and even threatens to globalize into poor and developing countries, through programs that spread the use of neuroleptics there.

And there is no doubt that once more there is a public debate about psychiatric procedures, but once more those on the receiving end, and their organized groups, tend not to be heard.

We call for urgent attention by everyone in society to the rise of brain-altering methods in psychiatry today. Never again! Please truly listen to those who have been harmed by psychiatric procedures in the past, and to critics of the mental health profession, because it may be you or your loved ones who are on the receiving end of these technologies in the near future.

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