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Peter R. Breggin is a controversial psychiatrist from the United States. Dr. Breggin is best known as a critic of biological psychiatry and psychiatric medication, and as the author of books such as Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, and Talking Back to Ritalin.

Early career and background

Dr. 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: he does not use psychiatric medications in his practice[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Critical of conventional psychiatry

Few people are better known for criticising and opposing the use of [psychiatric]] drugs. He advocates psychological and social human services.

For over three decades, Dr. Breggin has campaigned against psychoactive drugs, electroshock, psychosurgery, coercive involuntary treatment, and biological theories of psychiatry. Breggin asserts[How to reference and link to summary or text] the pharmaceutical industry propagates disinformation, alleging drug companies have largely fabricated markets by spreading a false message that psychiatric drugs are more effective and less safe than he says. Throughout this period, Dr. Breggin has served as a medical expert in civil and criminal suits, including individual malpractice cases and product liability litigation against the manufacturers of psychiatric drugs.

In the early 1990s, Breggin pointed out the problems with research methodology in the research of SSRI antidepressants, issues which have received corroboration and attention beginning perhaps ten years after Dr. Breggin originally wrote of them. Similarly, he was insisting that SSRIs could cause violence and suicide in the early 1990s, an issue more conventional psychiatric researchers are now beginning to accept (As of 2005 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now issued black-box warnings for SSRIs and suicide in children and are concerned about this issue in adults as well).

Much contemporary work that is critical of SSRI medications is seemingly derivative of work Breggin did years ago, although he is rarely cited in the psychiatric literature. In the Antidepressant Fact Book, Breggin notes that Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., a Harvard psychiatrist who authored Prozac Backlash, a popular-press critique of SSRIs, consulted with Breggin and actually borrowed notes and court documents from Peter Breggin, who had accumulated them as an expert witness. These arguments and documents were critical to the arguments which Glenmullen asserts in Prozac Backlash- but Glenmullen expulcated Breggin from the book, and did not acknowledge Breggin's important role. Breggin notes that this took place but graciously states that Glenmullen's work is still valuable because it promotoes important ideas. In terms of sales and overall popularity, Prozac Backlash greatly exceeded Breggin's previous work which made virtually the same arguments. This is important because it demonstrates that an esteemed psychiatrist from Harvard who is thought of as an expert on SSRIs ended up deriving much of his work from Peter Breggin, and while Glenmullen retains much respect and esteem, Breggin is typically marginalized- yet the ideas are the same, and orginated with Breggin. (See "Talking Back to Prozac" by Breggin, "The Antidepressant Fact Book" by Breggin, "Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry" by Breggin, and "Prozac Backlash" by Glenmullen). Glenmullen has never countered Breggin's assertion and the two were seen presenting together at the same conference in 2004.

Controversial author and expert witness

Dr. Breggin's work provided the scientific basis for the original Wesbecker Prozac lawsuit, and for label changes in many psychiatric drugs. All doctors have an implied duty to report new adverse drug reactions to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) MedWatch [1], prompting frequent and common label changes. An example of consequences blamed on medication is Andrea Yates' murders of her own children. [2].

Breggin's point of view is questioned by some of his critics. Breggin's credentials are also questioned by some of his critics.

The president of the American Psychiatric Association referred to Breggin as the modern equivalent of a "flat earther."[3]

At one time, Breggin's research drew some material from testimonials from Scientologist-supported support groups on depression, although his research has always been a combination of clinical experience (interacting with patients on medications), medico-legal work (analysis of drug company documents and the like for court cases), and critical analyses of existing research.

Some have criticized Breggin for his links to Scientology campaigns against psychiatric drugs, though since 1974 he has vigorously criticized the controversial church, which has long been a rabid opponent of psychiatry. Breggin's wife, Ginger Ross Breggin, was a Church of Scientology member and he said that he was "once an ally," meaning that they shared a common goal of opposing the growth of biological psychiatry and the increasing rate at which children are medicated.

However, Breggin reportedly helped his wife leave Scientology--which she refers to as a cult--and both have endorsed efforts to assist people who are caught up in cults or cult-like organizations.[4] On the Internet and in the media, it is still common to see him derided as an "ally of Scientology". In particular, drug maker Eli Lilly regularly links him to the Church of Scientology.[5] The drug industry, according to critics, often cites links to the Church of Scientology in order to discredit its opponents.

Breggin is often criticized for a few statements he made while musing about the role of children and freedom in society. In “The Psychology of Freedom” (1980), he made some controversial remarks about child sexuality, while musing about the role of coercion and norms within society. In a later book, "Reclaiming Our Children", he advocates 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).

A pioneer in alternative publishing and research

In 1971, 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. He also founded the peer-review journal, "Ethical Human Sciences and Services", renamed as "Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry" [6].

Since 1964 Dr. Breggin has published some peer-reviewed articles and many books on his topics 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. He has also published in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, which is edited by Graham Dukes, the world's foremost expert on drug-induced harm. 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 now lives and practices in Ithaca, New York, where he treats children, adults and families.


  • The Anti-Depressant Fact Book: What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Luvox, Perseus Publishing, 2001, ISBN 073820451X
  • Dimensions of Empathic Theory, Springer Publishing Company, 2001, ISBN 0826115136
  • Psychosocial Approaches to Deeply Disturbed Persons, Haworth Press, 1996, ISBN 1560248416
  • Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Solution for a Nation in Crisis, Perseus Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0738204269
  • The Ritalin Fact Book: What Your Doctor Won't Tell You, Perseus Books Group, 2002, ISBN 0738204501
  • Talking Back To Prozac: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Today's Most Controversial Drug, St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1995, ISBN 0312956061
  • Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren't Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD, Da Capo Press, 2001, ISBN 0738205443
  • Toxic Psychiatry : Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the "New Psychiatry", St. Martin's Griffin, 1994, ISBN 0312113668
  • Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications, HarperCollins, 2000, ISBN 0738203483

See also

External links

  • - The Antipsychiatry Coalition
  • - Dr. Breggin's homepage
  • - '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)
  • - International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology
  • - '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
  • Dr. Breggin's comments on Eli Lilly, Scientology and his relationship with it.
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