Bipolar, Migraines and Ginger

I am fortunate to have only had one severe migraine in my whole life. That was after eating a huge quantity of Brazil nuts on a train journey and then having extreme suffering right through to the next morning.

I know nothing of any link between migraines and bipolar disorder but do hope you’ll watch this short video as I feel it says so much about how ‘modern’ medicine looks to sell drugs rather than look for simpler solutions.

Whatever ailment, disorder, disease, dis-ease we experience, let us look to natural remedies and minimize the use of pharmaceuticals. As always, I need to immediately add that everyone needs to take great care and get appropriate advice when coming off pharmaceuticals that are addictive and often have severe mood altering withdrawal effects.

The video is just 3m 29s

Flashback to London 2012 – just before the Olympics

I was interviewed about some of our research work… This was on the top floor of a building overlooking the Thames. With the start of the Olympic Games just days away, every few minutes another helicopter would go over, hence a lot of editing.

Anyway, I felt it worth saying about this interview again now while I am getting some help tidying my place – skip to 4m 16s to hear what I was saying about surroundings.

Then at 10m 40s I share my views on medication. These have not changed, “the same drug everyday is not likely to be ideal”, “people need choice” (for those in USA paracetamol = acetaminophen).

The video takes a few moments to load…

Ups and Downs – Video – Alice Hicks and Roger Smith #bipolar

Regarding side-effects of psychiatric drugs

Dear reader,

I am glad you found my answer to your question of, “When taking Carbamazepine I have heard it said to only have bottled water to avoid chlorine that that may interacts with Carbamazepine – is this true and important?” As you say, it is worth sharing these thoughts on Carbamazepine and other psychiatric drugs, as others may also find this discussion useful so I will post what I was saying here:


It is worth looking at the side-effects of carbamazepine in the link below. I have heard hundreds of stories of weird interactions like the one about chlorine and carba… These may or may not have some truth in them but 99% of the time such ideas are trivial. The drugs are toxic so, in the very long-term, the more we take the sicker we get.

How to help your mum?… The food she is having is likely to be cheap rather than good, so maybe check on what supplements she is having to make up for some of the deficiencies. E.g. Any sort of omega-3 supplement? Omega-3 being good for the heart, brain and joints.


All drugs have lots of side-effects. A simple way of looking at psychiatric drugs is that they are;

  • intended to make us less anxious and therefor have to…
  • cause us to have less energy
  • this requires them to be toxic
  • and so they cause just a little damage with every dose

It is the less energy bit that explains how they work. If you think of a mood map, then less energy takes us down and out of the anxious quadrant and into the ‘low’ quadrant. The drugs work when the dose is low enough to take the edge off the anxiety such that we can;

  • better explain our troubles to a good listener
  • listen to good advice from people who have been through similar troubles

The trouble with this approach include;

  • The dose is usually too strong (Dr Moncrief writes about this)
  • Drugs are used for too long (All were originally intended for short term use by the scientists who created them – but the marketing people know there is more money to be made when patients fail to recover)
  • Addiction gets worse with time as our bodies adapt to expect to have to cope with toxins everyday
  • Damage is cumulative

These troubles are all obvious, but the other two troubles that make the drug route pretty useless are;

  • We struggle to find good listeners
  • The health service puts us in front of people who have not been through what we are going through and so their advice is rarely much use

So, when you read the side-effects of carbamazepine… really, pretty similar to most psychiatric drugs. These drugs are never going to be part of a cure unless short-term and matched up with talking (listening/talking) therapies.

I have to add that it is almost always dangerous to come off any drug quickly. Change has to start with better lifestyle and that usually needs to include better nutrition.


How Psychiatric Drugs Can Kill Your Child – Documentary Video #psychiatry

Psychiatric Drugs

Think carefully before agreeing to take any drug. Many drugs can be more powerful than we think they are going to be.

This is a longish documentary film. I found it interesting to simply listen to this while working on something else – the spoken words speak for themselves.

Warning: Lots of mention of suicide

Lithium – serious stuff #lithium #bipolar

Lithium – I felt readers might be interested in this email…

Hi Mary,

We both know that lithium is toxic – but then everything is kind of toxic if you have too much of it. (Example: We need sugar, but too much sugar gradually kills us.)

What do I know about lithium?

I graduated as a chemist in 1980 and have worked in chemistry (pharmaceuticals and food) most of my life. I have also spent a lot of time studying lithium and co-authored a 350 page on bipolar.

Lithium occurs naturally. We all consume tiny amounts of lithium from our food and water every day. Tiny amounts do very little damage. Depending on where you live and what you choose to eat you are probably consuming no more than 1mg/day of lithium if not taking tablets. There have been studies that have led researchers to suggest that 1mg/day has a mood stabilizing effect.

How much damage lithium does is very much linked to dose. Most doctors prescribe far too much. The blood test limits are (I believe) set far too high.

People who stop taking lithium quickly almost always get very ill.

People who stay on the prescribe dose end up with badly damaged kidneys – I know this because that is what I have now and I know of many others also now with kidney damaged (and many who have died through kidney failure). I am not going to go into huge detail.

I am going to make recommendations:

1) Get your kidneys tested and scanned now, so that your doctor will be able to monitor your kidney function. It naturally goes down with age, but while on lithium you need to keep an eye on your kidneys.

2) Do not even think about stopping your lithium. You are relatively well now and stopping any time in the near future will almost certainly lead to unwellness.

3) Make a plan for gradually reducing the amount of lithium you are taking. Consider how you would go about taking just 10% less. If on two tablets per day that could be a matter of cutting a quarter off one tablet and not taking that (a 12.5% reduction).

4) Discuss your plan with someone you trust. Ideally discuss with your GP. The thing people need to understand is that just by reducing the dose by about 10% will most likely prevent a lot more than 10% of the kidney damage you will be suffering. It is generally true of toxins that it is the excess that does the most harm. For example: We all consume arsenic in our food, but it seems to do us no harm at all, and yet it is a well-known poison if taken in one big dose.


I came off lithium, little by little, over several years. I felt healthiest and with the most stable moods I have ever had when I got down to about 50mg/day. This was down from the 650mg/day that I was on for many years. I am not unique in finding that low levels of lithium work better than high levels.



1) Reducing too quickly will destabilize mood – slower is better – your plan needs to be a reduction over a year or more, but the sooner you start the longer your kidneys will last.

2) When you do get to be on a lower dose, do not believe anyone who tells you that you are on a ‘sub-therapeutic dose’ or says that it is not worth taking 100mg or 50mg. These low doses most definitely do influence mood. I know 3 people who were each doing well on 100mg and their doctors told them to stop. They stopped and got very unwell.

3) Coming off lithium completely is likely to be difficult and dangerous – aim simply to take less – maybe a long way in the future you will find specialist help with getting off that last bit, but for now work out how you can take a bit less.



Bipolar weight gain, bipolar weight loss

I just read this article: Accepting Weight Gain in Bipolar Disorder

All the drugs used for bipolar are sedatives. In general: Sedatives are far more likely to cause weight gain than most other drugs. Some sedative drugs such as Olanzapine/Zyprexa are exceptionally good for putting on weight and can be used to help people who are anorexic.

I found that small decreases in dose allowed me to lose weight, with the weight coming off about 2 months after reducing the dose. However….

When I had to give up all the psychiatric drugs to protect my physical health, about 2 months later my weight started to go down rapidly. I was eating as much as I possibly could but I just got thinner and thinner.

Being bipolar and thin is at least as much of a problem as being bipolar and fat. Family tends to associate thinness with mania. I was happiest (most often in the moods I wanted and needed to be in) when I was on a very low dose of sedative.

If you feel you are too heavy then find ways of needing a little less of the sedative drugs (sedative ‘antidepressants’, sedative ‘anti-psychotics, sedative ‘mood stabilizers’) – it is well worth doing this even if you have no plans at all for ever getting off the drugs. Less is better… none at all is a difficult path.

#Antipsychotics – Long term effects #Electroboy

Like many of us who agreed to take ‘anti-psychotics’ Andy Behrman (Electroboy) has changed the way he thinks about these.

Since publishing Electroboy speaks out I have been asked about research into how people who have taken these drugs for years cope when they eventually get off the drugs. I do not think there has been much research – as a reader can you tell me of some?

My own personal experience is that it is tough. In many ways my life has been more difficult since my first day visiting a psychiatric ward and being given a small cup of orange liquid and a nurse saying, “Drink this. It will help you feel better.”

It was years later that I discovered the cup contained chlorpromazine. That drink was a turning point in my life as when my parents came to visit me I was suffering memory loss and confusion from the psychosis it induced in me. The effect of the drug was to convince them that I had become severely unwell. It was my first and to date most severe experience of psychosis… But then surely an ‘anti-psychotic’ is supposed to lessen psychosis and not cause it? Well, not really. As with other psychiatric drugs ‘anti-psychotics’ are essentially sedatives. See: The Myth of the Chemical Cure by Joanna Moncrieff

I am sure such the practice of nurses tricking people into taking their first fix of a drug, (without saying what it is) is now strictly forbidden in the UK. There again  student nurses are mainly just given the drug company information about the drugs and not a chemist’s perspective, so those offered the drugs are unlikely to have any idea just how long-term the consequences of that first dose are likely to be.

So 42 years on I am still suffering everyday from the first addiction to an ‘anti-psychotic’ and from the one started in a more violent way years later… being held down by five nurses while the sixth injected the drug into my bum! The ward manager looked on and seemed to be crying… now I understand why.

I am now getting by without the drugs, but most nights it is just getting by. It does not seem I will ever fully recover from the damage the drugs did to me. If you are thinking that you need psychiatric drugs please don’t rush into getting them. If you have a choice make some lifestyle changes and stay away from the drugs.

Do ‘SSRI’ drugs cause some people to drink more alcohol? #ssrialcohol

According to an article posted yesterday by the very respected Dr David Healy it seems that people are drinking more when taking drugs known as ‘SSRI antidepressants’, such as paroxetine, citalopram and seroxat. Apologies to readers who are using these, just that it seems better to know about the risks.

Warning: Suddenly stopping any psychiatric drug typically results in very unpleasant  feelings, changes in energy levels and the potential for distorted thinking. There is a lot of pre-work to be done to successfully come off drugs.

My belief: Most of the damage done by drugs is through taking too much for too long, rather because any one chemical is especially more dangerous than another. Taking a small amount of an appropriate drug every day may in fact be the best way to get through life. If the drug is making you ill, then you need to get help so you can take less of it.

Suggestion: If your doctor will not discuss your prescription with you, think about ways to find a doctor who knows about emotions, medication, risks and the need to help you get the dose right.

Here is the article. The main reason I am publishing this is that I have noticed friends seeming to drink more when they are on antidepressants and then getting worse. It seems to be yet another driver for increasing bipolar diagnosis due to drug plus drink creating greater extremes of mood.

Here is David Healy’s article:

Bipolar diagnosis takes years off life #bipolarlife

Warning: Suddenly stopping any psychiatric drug typically results in very unpleasant  feelings, changes in energy levels and the potential for distorted thinking. There is a lot of pre-work to be done to successfully come off drugs.

My belief: Most of the damage done by drugs is through taking too much for too long, rather because any one chemical is especially more dangerous than another. Taking a small amount of an appropriate drug every day may in fact be the best way to get through life. If the drug is making you ill, then you need to get help so you can take less of it.

Suggestion: If your doctor will not discuss your prescription with you, think about ways to find a doctor who knows about emotions, medication, risks and can help you get the dose right.

Some say bipolar diagnosis takes 25 years off life expectancy

I didn’t want to have to say any more about psychiatric drug risks at this time. The trouble is doctors do not seem to be aware of the risks.

There are many reasons why the people diagnosed with bipolar tend to die younger than people with similar emotional distress who avoid diagnosis. From scans of brains damaged by prolonged use of psychiatric drugs we know drugs contribute to early death.

Here is a quote from and a link to a recent article discussing research into early death among those who take psychiatric drugs…

…second-generation antipsychotic drugs can trigger metabolic syndrome, which is associated with a two- to threefold increase in death from cardiovascular disease and a twofold increase in deaths from all causes combined.

from Dr Jane Collingwood’s article: Premature Death Rates Rising in Schizophrenia, Bipolar Patients

Doctors need help in understanding how people can return to good mental health without the need to diagnose. Here is a link for: doctors who would like to know more about emotional people getting by without the need for diagnosis and with little need for medication


Little by little psychiatrists are giving in to the pressure to reveal the truth about psychiatric drugs. Which drugs have never shown any benefit? Which drugs cause long-term irreversible damage? This information has been published and it seems it is being suppressed.

Have a look at what: Jonathan Leo, Ph.D. (Professor of Neuroanatomy) and Jeffrey Lacasse, Ph.D. posted on line yesterday (23rd January 2012) – Psychiatry’s Grand Confession

There is a long way to go in the UK where it is likely 98% of NHS psychiatrists still favour hiding the truth from patients and relatives.

Does your GP know that psychiatrist explain a ‘model’ to patients even though it is contrary to the scientific facts. Please pass on articles like this to your doctor.  Thank you.

An excerpt from “The Cure for Mood Disorders Is Dementia?”

This is an excerpt from the article I was reading this morning. Really, I am keen to be sharing how people recover and minimise medication. I am keen to share how people can avoid getting the diagnosis, but these drugs are worse than most people realise and… well, I am not going to say any more here – let me know what you think:

Should studies that show (prove?) that atypical antipsychotics cause dementia be shared or suppressed?

Article by: 

“In February 2011, Ho, Andreasen, Ziebell, Pierson, and Magnotta documented the brain volume reduction among their patients taking drugs that block dopamine, which includes the older antipsychotics and the newer atypicals. To prove causation, subjects have to be randomly assigned to a particular treatment or a control group. Fulfilling that requirement can be difficult with human subjects. So for proof of the causal connection, Ho et al., cited animal studies which observed the necessary random assignment. Researchers randomly assigned monkeys, none of whom were suffering from psychosis, to receive or not receive anti-dopamine drugs for two years. The animal researchers found that the antipsychotics do result in brain volume shrinkage. These results are consistent with what is known about brain health generally. Dopamine is a trigger for the release of growth factors in brain. If you block the dopamine message with a drug that sits on the receptor, there will be less release of growth factors, and poorer brain health.

Of course, brain volume reduction is only the latest, most awesome problem with the atypical antipsychotic drugs. From the outset, it has been known that the atypicals are associated with significant weight gain, diabetes, and high levels of fat in the blood. Moreover, atypicals are associated with QT wave prolongation (capable of inducing a heart attack). So if you take seroquel for sleep, you might be sleeping for longer than intended.

When drugs are approved by the FDA, they are evaluated for damage to major organ systems. Unfortunately, the drugs given to change mood and behavior are not evaluated for damage to structures in the brain.”

Read full article at Mad in America

Electroboy Speaks Out

electroboy 2003

Click to buy Electroboy 2003 from

When Andy Behrman’s book (Electroboy 2003) was published, for many people around the world he became ELECTROBOY! I certainly found Electroboy easier to remember than Behrman.

Something Andy and I (in Stop Paddling/Start Sailing 2004) have in common is we both wrote about treatments we saw as acceptable, only to discover psychiatry is less scientific and more flawed than we ever could have imagined. For me, it was Zyprexa®/Olanzapine and Lithium gradually destroying me, whilst Andy came up against Abilify®/aripiprazole.

Another horrible side effect for me was the problems that I experienced with my cognitive skills, which actually reminded me so much of my experience after electroshock therapy. One day while at lunch, I gazed blankly at a friend and could not for the life of me remember her name although I had known her for more than a couple of years. I was often confused and agitated over simple things: a misplaced piece of paper, whether I had taken my dogs out for a walk or not and even focusing on a simple conversation. Abilify, my new “wonder drug” was failing me and I was embarrassed to tell anyone, even my wife…‘ Andy Behrman 2006

Read the article here… (850 words)

Zyprexa: An American psychosis – from Beyond Meds #Whitaker

If you have read Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America then you will probably remember this idea that is ‘excerpted’ at 

There is so much information in this book it is difficult to know what to share. If you have not read it yet then check it out…

Zyprexa Olanzapine

Anatomy of an Epidemic

<< Click for Amazon UK

Better quality research is required

I have just received an email magazine where this headline is presented as if it is a new one, “BIPOLAR DISORDER ‘SHRINKS BRAIN’

Typing this into Google this turns out to be a small study from 2007

that seems to have been dragged up, perhaps by someone somewhere hoping the public will see it as new and worth re-reading?

This idea alarmed and worried people at the time, but then seemed to be untrue having only involved a small number of people and possibly not taken into account a lot of lifestyle issues, such as drug intake that may have influenced the results more than the diagnosis. Here is one of the places it was discussed at the time. You will see some people were upset by being told their brain would shrink faster.

Professor Goodwin was reported as saying, “It supports the idea that cognitive function is impaired in bipolar patients in middle age” By saying this in this way, makes it sound as if this is a well documented fact. Where does this idea of impaired thinking come from? Those who so readily point out that Winston Churchill and Sir Isaac Newton were probably manic depressives do not seem to believe that mood disorders caused ‘cognitive impairment’ in the days before antipsychotics.

Through my work I meet hundreds of people with the bipolar diagnosis. In my experience those who take antipsychotics gradually have impaired thinking whilst those who do not take drugs continue to have ‘sharp thinking’. Now, clearly the people I meet are a particular sample and a lot of other things are going on in their lives. It is just that they talk to me about the drugs they take and over the years I have seen deterioration in brain function in those who take antipsychotics for long periods. Good brain functioning seems to return for those who can safely, gradually come off the drugs.

The results from this old study might still be useful, if enough data was collected to view them in a different way. What if records exist for how much of the various brain-wasting drugs were taken by each person prior to their first scan and in the four years between the two scans?

It is known that anti-psychotics cause brain shrinkage. How much drug was taken by the bipolar group and how much by the control group? Also alcohol is associated with changes in the brain. Research has shown many people with mood disorders drink more than average amounts of alcohol. Did the researchers record alcohol consumption?

It would be interesting to hear from the 2007 team and see the data they collected and how they came to the conclusion that a diagnosis was causing brains to shrink rather than any environmental factors.

If it turns out that the un-diagnosed group was taking similar drugs prior to the study and during the study then my thoughts are about diet, as people with the bipolar diagnoses can tend to give up hope and turn to less nutritious high calorie low vitamin content foods that may be associated with changes in brain structure.  If not diet, stress hormone (perhaps cortisol) levels may be seen to vary between the groups as we know mental health diagnosis increases stigma and that could in turn increase stress levels.

Do any readers know of brain scan research that has looked at a fuller range of possibilities rather than starting out to prove that a diagnosis can directly shrink brains?

I do not doubt that those of us who were diagnosed have ended up with brain shrinkage. I am just keen to know which factors are causing the loss of brain cells… is it the antipsychotics, the illegal drugs, the alcohol, poor nutrition, higher stress levels or any number of other possibilities such as poor sleep or smoking more?

Let us have more research that includes brain scans – just that a future team could include me, as an experienced researcher with chemistry and pharmaceutical background having had the bipolar diagnosis. This would of course require the rest of the team to accept that the diagnosis has not already shrunk my brain too much. I can say upfront that the amount of medication I took is likely to have destroyed 10% of my brain. There again it is not how much brain we all have – it is how we use it that matters.

Lithium in moderation

Many people have been told, “You will need to take lithium tablets for the rest of your life.”

It is a strange thing for psychiatrists to be saying when first prescribing this mineral. We know that for something like half the people who take lithium as prescribed it just does not do what it is supposed to do.

Could it be that lithium simply works in a similar way to all the other essential minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, with supplements only improving our health if we happened to be suffering a deficiency?

From a nutritionist’s point of view this makes perfect sense. If you have enough of a mineral and you are given more than you will feel worse. Most likely you will become more anxious or depressed. If you really are not getting enough dietary lithium then a lithium supplement will most likely help you to feel less depressed and anxious.

Here is an article I wrote about lithium being a mineral that most people can get from a balanced diet: Lithium for everyone

As always I need to stress that if you have taken lithium tablets then it can be extremely dangerous to suddenly stop taking the tablets. The correct way to come off lithium medication is to first talk to your doctor about ‘titrating down’ very slowly with appropriate monitoring. Would anyone like me to post details of how I reduced my lithium intake when I became concerned about side-effects?

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