Watchdog Asks NIMH to Research Psychotropic Drugs’ Impact on Immune System

As psychiatric hospitals start reporting COVID-19 deaths, CCHR says National Institute of Mental Health’s latest research initiative should include how psychotropic drugs may impact the immune system, potentially causing proneness to contracting viruses. Lives could be saved.

Recent studies and reports on the risk of psychotropic drugs effecting the immune system have prompted Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an international mental health industry watchdog, to ask the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to included research into this. On April 9, NIMH issued a Notice of Special Interest for research to “strengthen the mental health response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” and “future public health emergencies, including pandemics.”[1] CCHR says unbiased drug research could provide vital information for doctors, hospitals and the informed consent rights of consumers.

CCHR is concerned about understandable fears and struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic being redefined as mental illness to be treated with psychotropic drugs. Already, the group has noticed an increase in media articles suggesting psychedelics like LSD being offered as a potential to treating depression predicted to arise from the pandemic.

Mirsad Serdarevic Ph.D. writing in Psychology Today, noted: “Over the past several decades, psychiatric practice has been almost exclusively reduced to psychopharmaceutical practice, which either leads to or contributes to physical deterioration of the population it purports to be treating.” This includes the larger population being prescribed antidepressants which can cause weight gain and could “contribute, if not lead, to development of obesity, one of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 disease complications and mortality.”[2]

CCHR says it would be important for NIMH to identify which drugs can impact the immune system, drug practices which psychiatric hospitals rely upon. New Jersey recently reported four patients died from COIVID in psychiatric hospitals.[3] Thirteen patients tested positive at Western State Hospital in Kentucky.[4] Clinical reports indicate that patients treated with atypical antipsychotics are more susceptible to infections.[5] The antipsychotic clozapine poses a risk of lowering immune system function.[6] Taking neuroleptics, lithium, psychostimulants and tranquilizers can weaken the immune system. The FDA warns that lamotrigine prescribed as a mood stabilizer “can cause a rare but very serious reaction” to the immune system which “can cause severe inflammation throughout the body and lead to hospitalization and death.”[7]

With already one in six American adults taking a psychiatric drug, the impact of increasing psychotropic drug prescribing is foreboding, CCHR says. According to a researcher at Boulder County Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health, “A majority of suicide attempts involve the use of medication.” The main exposure was individuals in the sample study who filled a psychotropic drug prescription within 90 days before the suicide attempt.[8]

Antidepressants top the list of psychotropics Americans take, followed by sedatives, hypnotics and anti-anxiety drugs, then antipsychotics.[9] Another 6.7 million 0-17-year-olds are prescribed psychotropic drugs, of which 2.1 million are taking antidepressants that the FDA warns against prescribing to because of the risk of suicide.[10] Other recognized side effects include anxiety, agitation and nervousness, vivid dreaming and withdrawal effects.[11]

A recent Psychology Today article warns of potential overprescribing of SSRI antidepressants “due in part to coronavirus-related stress and anxiety on a scale felt worldwide,” but says it is especially important to be reminded that COVID-19 is not a mental health crisis. As Dr. Lucy Johnstone explains, “It’s healthy to be afraid in a crisis” and “wrong to view our natural fears as mental health disorders.”[12]

CCHR is tracking the increased volume of promotion that “depression,” “anxiety” and suicide are likely to soar and questions the potential conflicts of interests behind these warnings. It says NIMH research needs to be unbiased.

A psychiatrist representing the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry warned that the “real mental health crisis” is yet to come. This psychiatrist has conflicts of interest with five psychotropic drug manufacturers, including stock holdings in a company that makes antipsychotics.

Newsweek reported that a study being conducted at the Imperial College in London will soon finish a trial comparing psilocybin with the antidepressant drug escitalopram on patients with depression. The lead researcher has financial ties to at least seven psychiatric drug companies and has received grants or clinical trial payments from a mental health research company, which he also has share options in.

An American Psychiatric Association’s blog said a “new review study concludes” that psychedelics such LSD “show promise for treating conditions including treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” The research team included at least four psychiatrists with strong ties to psychotropic drug makers.

CCHR wants consumers to be better informed of psychotropic drug risks through its free psychiatric drugs side effects database.

CCHR is the mental health watchdog responsible for more than 180 laws that now protect patients from damaging practices. DONATE to support its work here:



[2] Mirsad Serdarevic Ph.D., “When Medications Hurt: How the COVID-19 crisis highlights serious problems with psychiatric treatment,” Psychology Today, 11 Apr. 2020,




[6] “The most serious side effect associated with CLOZARIL is called agranulocytosis. This occurs when your white blood cell count is significantly lowered and your body’s immune system becomes highly vulnerable to infection,”


[8] “Prescribed access to psychotropic drugs linked to suicide method choice,” Brown TL, et al. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018;doi:10.4088/JCP.17m11982. Healio Psychiatry, 20 Nov. 2018,

[9] “1 in 6 Americans Takes a Psychiatric Drug: Antidepressants were most common, followed by anxiety relievers and antipsychotics,” Scientific American, 13 Dec. 2016,



[12] “Antidepressants and Online Misinformation: A study of medical websites finds widespread misreporting,” Psychology Today, 13 Apr. 2020,

Release ID: 88953499