Why Do Psychiatric Meds Make Some People Worse?

Why Do Psychiatric Meds Make Some People Worse?

When prescribed appropriately, psychiatric medications can be very helpful in reducing symptoms associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, and many other conditions. But if you’ve been misdiagnosed and are taking prescription pills for a condition you don’t have, or you’re taking medication that isn’t right for your individual brain type, it can lead to unwanted side effects and even some questionable behaviors. Just look at what happened to Kate.

7 Minutes to Disturbing New Behavior

A minister’s wife, Kate went to her family doctor and told him she was stressed, depressed, and couldn’t sleep. After a 7-minute appointment, she left his office with three prescriptions: a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) called (fluoxetine/Prozac) for depression, a benzodiazepine (alprazolam/Xanax) for her anxiety, and a sleeping pill (zolpidem/Ambien). Within three days Kate started to feel better. After a week she was feeling really great. 

Then, while stopped at a traffic light, a man in a truck pulled up beside her. He winked at her, which was not unusual as Kate was an attractive woman. But what happened next was very unusual. Kate proceeded to unbutton her blouse and showed the man her breasts. Horrified at her own behavior she sped off, and the trucker tried to follow her. She managed to give the guy the slip and sped back to the safety of her home.

Still shaking from what she had done and unnerved at what might have happened if she hadn’t driven off, she went straight to her medicine cabinet. She figured the uncharacteristic change in her behavior had to be related to the new medications she was taking, so she tossed them all in the trash.

Why Kate’s Meds Weren’t Right for Her

Desperate for answers, Kate decided it was time to see what was happening in her brain. After she had been off those medications for several weeks, she underwent a brain imaging study called SPECT. It measures blood flow and activity in the brain and shows three things: areas of the brain with healthy activity, too much activity, or too little activity.

Kate’s brain scan showed low overall activity, especially in the front part of her brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is involved in impulse control, planning, judgment, and decision-making. When activity in this area is low, people tend to be more impulsive, engage in risky behavior, and make bad decisions.

The three medications Kate had been given all decrease brain activity. This can be helpful in people who have too much activity in the brain, but not in Kate’s case. These medications further diminished activity in her PFC, thereby disinhibiting her judgment, lowering her impulse control, and leading to the embarrassing incident with the unbuttoned blouse.

Kate was lucky that she made the connection between her unusual behavior and the medications. Imagine if she had continued taking them and the kind of trouble she could have gotten into. It’s frightening!

Unfortunately, many people who are taking psychiatric medications don’t connect the dots between the pills they pop and differences in the way they act. They can go years without realizing that their medications are impacting their behavior in an undesirable way. This can lead to problems at work, troubled relationships, and many other issues.

How Psychiatric Meds Affect the Brain

Brain SPECT imaging studies show that some psychiatric medications—particularly benzodiazepines, sleeping medications, and pain pills like hydrocodone and oxycodone—have a negative impact on the brain. SPECT scans reveal that they suppress brain function in many people.

A growing body of scientific evidence, including studies in BMJ, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, shows that these medications—especially benzodiazepines—increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. These are all conditions known to be associated with low blood flow to the brain. Because some psychiatric medications can harm the brain, it’s important to look for natural ways to heal the brain and reduce symptoms.

Brain Function is the Key to the Right Medications

Without looking at the brain there is no way to know if a person’s brain needs more stimulation or needs to be calmed down. Symptoms, such as hopelessness or nervousness, don’t always equate to underlying brain function. Kate’s brain clearly needed more activity, not less. Seeing a person’s SPECT scan can help understand how that person is likely to respond to various medications and can diminish the risk of prescribing the wrong ones.

Seeing her brain helped Kate understand her disturbing behavior, and she got much better with a treatment plan that was targeted at increasing her brain activity. This included exercise to increase blood flow to the brain; great nutrition and stimulating supplements—including rhodiola, ginseng, and green tea— to support her moods; melatonin and magnesium for sleep; and psychotherapy to learn how to deal with the stress of being a pastor’s wife.

At Amen Clinics, we take an integrative approach to diagnosing and treating our patients. Through our brain imaging, lab work, and extensive assessment of your personal history (including asking about the medications you’re taking), we are able to identify biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to your symptoms. With this information, we can help you optimize areas of your life to enhance overall brain health to help decrease your symptoms.

If you would like help finding integrative solutions for your symptoms, call 888-288-9834 today to speak to a specialist or schedule a visit online.


  1. The Brain Spect Scan would be a ideal adjunct to a treatment plan for anyone, but you charge so much and it is not covered by insurance that I am convinced you are only interested in making money. If you believed this was a necessity for any treatment you would be working to make it a part of ANY treatment by your fellow psychiatrists. Further, the various organizations affiliated with psychiatric medical care would be joining in promotion of it’s use.

    You receive a great deal of publicity but what are YOU doing for patients who cannot afford the cost of this scan? I do not believe in your sincerity any longer.

    Please remove my name from your emails.
    Anna Angel Bakos
    Rochester Hills, MI 48309

    Comment by Anna Angeline Angel Bakos — January 10, 2020 @ 4:42 AM

  2. Do you know how dangerous it is for anyone with a mental illness to throw all of their meds in the trash? If they are not the right medicine they need to be tapered off of them. I think it’s disgusting that you would promote this in an article.

    Comment by Brad — January 10, 2020 @ 6:56 AM

  3. I agree with Anna. Your brain scan options only reach out to the 3% who can afford it. Thus when you have a solution to such dire medical interventions that effect us all you create a panic society of bad decisions, supplement over buying, higher hypochondriac cycles and further deeper erosion of health. Consequently it makes you richer. I sat with Deepak Chopra on Wednesday in Sacramento, Ca at the speaker series and realized how he too is fraud. How he lures his celebrity friends with his fake cures and super powers. His seven rules to longevity and all his books only reveal he is scared to die just like everyone else. He has all the answers, cures and visions but he really has nothing but your money at the end of the day. Let Karma be his only teacher. Wake up people it feels better to be in truth as it’s the only medicine that cures.

    Comment by Shar — January 10, 2020 @ 7:07 AM

  4. I believe the focus of concern was that the original prescribing provider evaluated, diagnosed and prescribed these medications in only 7minutes! Definitely concerning! I am not sure if I 100% agree that they have “promoted” the action of stopping the meds cold turkey, but they did seem to promote the action no longer taking the meds. However, I think it would have been prudent for the article to state clearly that you should never stop taking these meds suddenly and should work with your physician to taper off of them. The side effects of many psychiatric medications can be brutal when you stop cold turkey.

    Comment by generic user — January 10, 2020 @ 8:49 AM

  5. Thank you to both the above comments.
    Thank you Anna and Brad- both saying important aspects to brain activity and potential wellness.

    Please – Amen clinics- make the Spect scan affordable.
    Yes, Brad- so dangerous to just stop those rx’s. I escalated from depression to mania once doing that. Be careful!

    Comment by Barbara — January 10, 2020 @ 9:23 AM

  6. Ana, Angelina, Angel Bakos,

    I have same question and same concern…Dr. Amen call himself a Christian…But how cannot heal the poor and needy charging the less or affordable price.

    Comment by Rada — January 10, 2020 @ 10:55 AM

  7. I just about destroyed my life in 2016 when my doctor doubled my Sertraline dose to reduce my anxiety. Along with Sertraline, I began taking Bupropion and Xanax following the death of my father and suicide of my brother (which occurred less than 2 weeks after started ADHD meds, for what it’s worth), and my adult daughter’s diagnosis with leukemia. All that happened in a span of 5 months.

    I wrecked my car while messing around with my iPod, blew off my boss (nearly fired after 18 years with the company), gained 40#, and married someone I’d known for less than 6 months. A little anxiety is good – we call it caution.

    When my stepmother visited me 3 months after the dosage change, she was flabbergasted at my behavior. After her visit, over a period of 3 months, I weaned myself off all medications. I was horrified at the mess left in the wake of these medications.

    Knowing what I know now, it would take extraordinary circumstances to convince me to take meds again – and even then I would cap the use at 6 months. For me the real fix was better self-love through conscious living: mindfulness, daily meditation, assertiveness, and radical self-care. Working with a therapist has been helpful but not nearly as helpful as the aforementioned.

    Comment by Lisa — January 10, 2020 @ 11:35 AM

  8. I couldn’t agree more with the above comments. Especially the cost of brain scanning. It’s great if your rich. But HOW are you helping poor people with their mental health? How many of them end up dead or in prison because they cant afford, or no of help they can afford. What outreach are doing for these people? Zero.

    Comment by Dorothy Adams — January 10, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

  9. What is the Amen clinic doing to help people get off their benzodiazepines before having a spect ? You can’t just throw them away if you have been on them more than a few weeks or even less for some. I agree with the above comments. As much as i would like to be off the benzo I’ve been prescribed and use natural treatment after having a spect. It seems like treatment for the elite special ones who have the money and special situations only. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Comment by Nicole — January 11, 2020 @ 3:35 AM

  10. I have always been intrigued by brain scans. I wish I could afford it too. I kept thinking, eventually it would get cheaper. I purchased a 50 inch flat screen TV 7 years ago for $600 and now they’re around $150. Why haven’t the cost of these scans decreased? I agree that medications affect everyone differently and basic exercise, healthy diet and talking to a mental health professional has a proven record for success. I think everyone should have access to what is proven to work. What is being done to offer scans at a price everyone can afford?

    Comment by Cathy McKinley — January 11, 2020 @ 5:55 AM

  11. I agree

    Comment by Dennis — January 11, 2020 @ 6:06 AM

  12. They have an unsubscribe button and you just published you email on anopen forum for everyone to see.

    Comment by Ingrid — January 11, 2020 @ 6:49 AM

  13. The scan is only for their profit it’s insanely priced and he is not actually interested in helping others or he would make it affordable for everyone.

    Comment by Matthew Zeeman — January 11, 2020 @ 4:04 PM

  14. I agree with Anna

    Comment by Liz Allen — January 11, 2020 @ 7:27 PM

  15. I agree with Anna. The cost of the Spect scan and interpretative visit along with not accepting any insurance plans is a huge barrier for someone who desperately needs your help. I’ve called several times trying to get help for my daughter who has been hospitalized continuously from inpatient to outpatient for 8 months due to severe rapid cycling. Certainly there’s something going on with her brain and the traditional medications are not working. But we are working class people and we cannot afford over $5,000 for the diagnostic and $200 for one 30 minute session with an Amen Psychiatrist. Your articles give us hope that there are possible solutions to stop the pain and torment my daughter is enduring but it’s devastating as a parent to not be able to afford to give her access to an alternative level of care solely because we’re not in the right income class.

    Comment by Valli — January 12, 2020 @ 4:37 AM

  16. How much is this

    Comment by Juanita — January 12, 2020 @ 7:51 PM

  17. there are people being harmed by unseen weapons refered to as direct energy weapons. Please investigate targeted Individuals. Many continue
    to suffer from this horrific crime.

    Comment by jane — January 12, 2020 @ 9:13 PM

  18. It’s devastating to get your hopes up about a cure for the SPECT scan and then get the pricing for it and feel as though you were blindsided. Make it affordable Amen clinics.

    Comment by CU — January 12, 2020 @ 9:58 PM

  19. I agree with all of these comments. To hold out hope when the cost is hopeless is contradictory at best and cruel at worst.

    Comment by Margaret — January 13, 2020 @ 8:59 AM

  20. My son would have been much better off to pitch his in the trash. My own GP told me that these patients do this because the side effects really can be that bad.
    My son was in the neurology section of a big university and nothing helped, so he ended in the psychiatry section. That group changed his meds on the spot, no tapering! He went into fugue states and all, with police involved. It was awful. So he swore off everything and at least knows where he is!

    Comment by Millicent Hughes — January 17, 2020 @ 8:30 AM

  21. We have a visit scheduled for my 16 year old daughter coming up next week. When I looked at the price breakdown of the services, I truly feel the cost of the scans, treatment and follow up is almost exactly what we are paying out of pocket already for MEDIOCRE psychiatric care with little to no results after 3 YEARS……So, my husband (who is an emergency room physician) and I decided to give it a shot. We have thrown THOUSANDS of dollars at trying to find help for my daughter. Nothing has really worked. Every Psychiatrist/therapist has worked for about 1-2 months. They throw meds at her and say “you have to try it for 6-8weeks” Meanwhile she is incapacitated by anxiety and depression.
    So, we are borrowing money to get some help from Amen clinics. Can’t hurt. And, as I said, we have spent tens of thousands trying desperately to find a solution….with nothing to show for it.

    Comment by jennifer marshall — January 20, 2020 @ 6:15 AM

  22. I truly hope your daughter’s visit went well and that what Amen clinics are doing for her are successful. I really would appreciate hearing of your daughter’s progress. I have been helping a family member with similar issues who has been to many doctors that have prescribed various medications “to try”. They have been unsuccessful and at times made him very sick. I am very interested in Amen clinics but am concerned about pouring more money into another “try it” method that is expensive but just a gamble. I am more than willing to find the money but not if it’s a trial and error experiment.

    Comment by Debbie — February 25, 2020 @ 1:49 PM

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