Patrick D Hahn


Patrick D Hahn is an Affiliate Professor of Biology at Loyola University Maryland and a free-lance writer. His writing has also appeared in Biology-Online, Loyola Magazine,Popular Archaeology, Natural News,Canada Free Press, and the Baltimore Sun.

Most Recent Articles by Patrick D Hahn:

Patient safety is our highest concern

Jun 10, 2017 — Patrick D Hahn

Last February, Dr. Bérard and her colleagues published an updated analysis of the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort data. Between 1998 and 2009, the rate of antidepressant use during pregnancy for the study population doubled, from 2.1% to 4.3%. During that same period, the rate of major congenital malformations increased by more than 50%, and the rate of maternal depression went up slightly as well.

In addition, the study once again confirmed the link between paroxetine and heart defects, finding that the drug was associated with a nearly 50% rise in the rate of major cardiac malformations. The study also showed that venlafaxine, the active ingredient in Effexor (the drug that Christiane took during her pregnancies) more than doubled the incidence of major respiratory defects (which two of Christiane and Amery’s children suffered from).

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern


“I was absolutely distraught”

Jun 9, 2017 — Patrick D Hahn

Lyam David-Kilker was born on 24 October 2005, the second son of Michelle David and Miles Kilker of Bensalem, Pennsylvania. At birth he seemed like a normal, happy, healthy infant, but all that soon changed. His breathing was labored, and he became lethargic and lost his appetite. His parents took him to the doctors, who delivered devastating news. Lyam was born with multiple cardiac defects: a hole in his atrial septum, a hole in his ventricular septum, along with transposition of the great arteries—the same condition which afflicted Christiane and Amery’s son Daniel. Lyam required two open-heart surgeries and spent the first six months of his life in the hospital.

Shortly before conceiving, Michelle David had been prescribed Paxil for mild anxiety and occasional panic attacks, and she continued to take the drug throughout her pregnancy. After Miles Kilker heard a commercial message on television for the law firm linking Paxil to congenital heart defects, Michelle called the number and was referred to Sean Tracey, a personal injury lawyer from Houston.

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern


A gigantic uncontrolled experiment

Jun 8, 2017 — Patrick D Hahn

Since the beginning of the modern psychopharmaceutical era, the proportion of the population diagnosed with depression has skyrocketed. A condition that once affected fewer than one person out of a thousand now afflicts more than one out of twenty. Today major depression is the leading cause of disability for adults between the ages of 15 and 43.

During that same period, consumption of antidepressants also has skyrocketed. Currently one in six American women between the ages of 20 and 44 (an age bracket corresponding to the prime childbearing years) is taking some kind of antidepressant medication. Since more than half of pregnancies are unplanned, and many women continue taking antidepressants after learning they are pregnant, untold numbers of babies have been exposed to these drugs in the womb. These drugs readily cross the placenta and become part of the environment bathing the developing fetus, and not one of them was tested for safety and effectiveness in pregnant women before being released. This is a gigantic uncontrolled experiment.

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern


“Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects

Jun 8, 2017 — Patrick D Hahn

“Life was amazing.”

That is how Amery Schultz recalls life with his wife Christiane – before she began taking Wyeth’s blockbuster drug Effexor while pregnant. Since then, their lives have changed in ways they never could have imagined.

Amery and Christiane were born in the same hospital, just a month apart. They weren’t childhood sweethearts, but they grew up together in the same small town in British Columbia. Christiane remembers her adolescence as a rocky time. “At school I was being bullied really bad, and my parents weren’t helping.” At 14 she left home and moved in with her older sister. “She wanted me to have fun, so she pushed me to go partying. I was drugged and assaulted a couple of times, and she wouldn’t help me.” Christiane turned to her old friend Amery for consolation, and when she got married for the first time at the age of 21, Amery was the best man at the wedding – at Christiane’s behest.

Part I: “Please don’t forget about me”: Antidepressants and birth defects
Part II: A gigantic uncontrolled experiment
Part III: I was Absolutely Distraught
Part IV: Patient safety is our highest concern


Part 2: “The task of childhood”

Dec 2, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

In an attempt to ensure psychotropic medications are being appropriately prescribed to children, the Maryland Medicaid Pharmacy Program has established the Peer Review Program for Mental Health, in collaboration with the Behavioral Health Administration, the University of Maryland Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and School of Pharmacy, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Any prescription for antipsychotic medication to any child under 18 is automatically referred to the program.


“An evil drug”

Dec 1, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

“It’s an evil drug.”

So says Dam Le, who as a boy was prescribed Johnson & Johnson’s blockbuster drug Risperdal while in the custody of the Maryland foster care system.

Dam Le is talking about his experiences with that system. His speech is rapid-fire and at times hard to follow. He recalls he had a difficult time adjusting after he was placed in foster care at the age of fourteen. “My life was messed up,” he says. “I didn’t want to be there. It was too hard to adjust.”


Feasting on the dead

Oct 3, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

“Hammerhead sharks feasting on the dead make a unique sound.”

So says William, a disabled Navy veteran and survivor of a horrifying incident that occurred in the Persian Gulf.

At the age of twenty, William enlisted in the Navy and served for six years, working on radar and weapons systems. On 18 November 2001, he was part of a team from the destroyer USS Peterson that boarded the Samra, a suspected oil smuggler sailing under the UAE flag. The Samra capsized on the port side, and William spent the night clinging to debris, waiting to be rescued, and listening to the sounds of sharks devouring those who hadn’t made it.

“There is only one sound like a bone being crunched through,” William notes. “And that’s a bone being crunched through.”


20 suicides a day

Oct 3, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

On 3 August of this year the US Department of Veterans Affairs released its long-awaited report, Suicide Among Veterans and Other Americans 2001-2014. This report was the most comprehensive analysis of veteran suicide in our nation’s history, examining more than 55 million veteran records from 1979 through 2014, from all 50 states as well as four territories.

Compared to that of the general population, the suicide rate for veterans has risen steadily. Prior to 2006, the suicide rate for veterans, adjusted for age and sex, was actually lower than that of non-veterans. By 2014, the adjusted suicide rate for veterans was 21% higher, which in absolute terms works out to approximately 20 suicides a day.

But the most shocking finding can be found in Table 5 of the report, which shows suicide rates for veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. Suicide rates for VHA users who were veterans of these operations more than doubled between 2003 and 2014. For the age group 18-24, the increase in suicide was a staggering 400%.


A devastation beyond belief

Aug 2, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

The bipolar boom continues. Once upon a time, children were taught religious parables and national myths that placed their lives in a larger context of meaning, as well as stories that taught the value of hard work (The Little Red Hen), foresight (The Three Little Pigs) and perseverance (The Little Engine That Could). They learned about the young Teddy Roosevelt overcoming his childhood asthma through strenuous exercise, and the young Abe Lincoln reading by the firelight and then walking miles to return books he had borrowed. Today tomes such as Brandon and the Bipolar Bear, Turbo Max, and My Bipolar Roller Coaster Feelings Book teach the little ones the importance of psychotropic medication compliance.

Just over a year ago, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story titled “I don’t believe in God, but I believe in lithium,” which chronicles author Jamie Lowe’s experiences as a client of the psychopharmaceutical industry. At the age of 17 she was hospitalized for bipolar disorder and held down and forcibly injected with some kind of psychiatric medication (she doesn’t tell us which kind) and then prescribed lithium. Now, after 20 years of taking lithium, she suffers from irreversible kidney damage and sky-high blood pressure.


A tale of two psychiatrists

Aug 1, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

In the field of juvenile bipolar disorder research, one name towers above all others—Joseph Biederman.

Joseph Biederman is the Chief of Clinical and Research Programs in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD at Massachusetts General Hospital, Director of the Alan and Lorraine Bressler Clinical Research Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard. Once, while being deposed in a lawsuit, Dr. Biederman identified his academic rank as “full professor.” Asked what was above that, Biederman replied “God.”


The bipolar brain is miswired

Jul 31, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

In the year following the death of Rebecca Riley, Newsweek magazine, which had already published not one but two laudatory cover stories on Prozac as well as a puff piece on childhood depression, weighed in with yet another cover story, “Growing up bipolar: Max’s world,” which told the story of Max Blake, a boy who suffered from temper tantrums, attacking teachers and playmates without warning, biting and kicking and spitting at them. When Max reached the age of two, his parents took him to the Tufts-New England Medical Center, the same institution where Rebecca Riley was diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder. Not surprisingly, Max also was diagnosed as bipolar by the doctors, who prescribed Depakote, and then Zyprexa, then another medication and then another. By the time Max was ten years old his doctors had prescribed a total of thirty-eight different psychotropic drugs. At the age of twenty-eight months he was kicked out of day care. Later he was kicked out of the special-needs classes at the local public school and sent to a special school for troubled children. He suffered rages, weight gain, and tics, blinking his eyes, clearing his throat and pulling at his clothes like he wanted to get out of his skin. He accused his mother of poisoning him; the article describes the boy’s accusations as “delusional and paranoid.”

“The bipolar brain is miswired,” the article informs us, without adducing a shred of evidence for this assertion. The article goes on to admit there are no studies on the long-term effects of psychotropic medications on children, then tells us “Yet untreated bipolar disorder can be disastrous; 10 percent of sufferers go on to commit suicide,” begging the question of how many of those 10% were “untreated” (i.e., undrugged). Any of them? Then we are told “Parents must choose between two wrenching options: treat their children and risk a bad outcome, or don’t treat and risk a worse one.” But since the author has already told us that there are no long-term studies on the effects of medication on these children, that second clause is a preposterous non-sequitur. We don’t have any reason to believe that drugging these children decreases the likelihood of a bad outcome.


Rebecca Riley

Jul 30, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

The short, unhappy life of Rebecca Riley is a parable for our times. Her diagnosis with bipolar disorder at the age of 28 months was followed by a downward spiral which parents, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, and everybody else around her seemed powerless to halt.

Born into a troubled family, Rebecca had the deck stacked against her from the beginning. Rebecca’s father had been banned from living with his family in public housing after Carolyn’s thirteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage had lodged a complaint against him for sexual assault (that daughter had been given up for adoption and was no longer living with her biological mother at the time of the alleged assault). Carolyn Riley once obtained a restraining order against her husband after claiming he grabbed their son by the neck and banged his head against the back window of a pickup truck (Michael denied the accusation and the restraining order was allowed to lapse). Michael identified himself as suffering from intermittent rage disorder and bipolar disorder; he was not taking any medication for these conditions. Carolyn was taking Paxil for anxiety and depression.


Major therapeutic advances

Jul 29, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

Between 1994 and 2003, the rate of outpatient visits for juvenile bipolar disorder rose a staggering forty-fold. Meanwhile, the experts continued to maintain that treating children with antidepressants and stimulants was not causing bipolar disorder, but was merely revealing a pre-existing condition. A 2004 paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggested “In children genetically determined to develop bipolar disorder, the use of antidepressants and stimulants may advance the onset of bipolar disorder even before puberty.”

If all these drugs were doing was advancing the date of onset of bipolar disorder, that would be bad enough, but in fact, the proportion of both children and adults disabled by bipolar disorder has skyrocketed since the beginning of the modern psychopharmaceutical era. In his 2010 blockbuster work of non-fiction Anatomy of an Epidemic, author Robert Whitaker breaks it down. In 1955, the number of patients in the United States hospitalized for all affective disorders was 50,000. An estimated one out of four, or about 12,500, suffered from bipolar disorder. Today, some six million adults suffer from this disorder, and 83% of these are ‘severely impaired” in one or more aspects of their lives. A condition that affected perhaps of 100 people out of one million now afflicts something like 40,000 per million.


A healthy productive life

Jul 28, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

In December 1999, Demitri Papolos, M.D., and Janice Papolos published The Bipolar Child, the book that convinced Anne that her son William was bipolar. In the preface, the authors lay it on the line for us: “Many of these children were initially diagnosed as having attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity and put on stimulant medications; or they were first seen in the throes of depression with little or no consideration of the opposite pole of a mood disorder. As a result, a shocking number of children were thrown into manic and psychotic states, became paranoid and violent, and ended up in a hospital—unstable, suicidal, and in worse shape than before the treatment began…Parents need to be warned of the possibility that these drugs may wreak havoc on a possible quiescent bipolar gene.”

The solution proposed by the authors is not to refrain from giving children powerful, brain-altering drugs in the first place, but to make sure they get the right drugs: “[M]ood-stabilizing drugs such as lithium, Depakote, or Tegretol should be considered as a first line of treatment—early on—before episodes become more frequent, and the illness warps the psychological development of a child and the life of a family.”


Accident prone

Jul 27, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

A paper published in the April 1976 issue of the Journal of Diseases in Childhood described five cases of childhood mania. All the children described came from obviously troubled families. In three of the five cases the authors explicitly state that the mania did not develop until after the children had begun taking stimulants or antidepressants.

The five case histories give us poignant glimpses into the lives of these children. A fifteen-month-old toddler, born to a mother with a history of episodic depression, became jealous of her baby sister, and would hit the baby and steal her bottle. The paper doesn’t mention whether the child (or her mother) was offered any kind of therapy or counseling to help deal with the flood of feelings that must inevitably accompany the arrival of a new family member. Instead, the toddler was treated first with diphenhydramine, then dextroamphetamine, then nortriptyline, then phenobarbital. After the phenobarbital was discontinued, the child was kept on nortriptyline, at which point she experienced her first episode of full-blown mania, characterized by unintelligible speech, insomnia, hyperactivity, irritability, and delusional fantasies (pretending to be an airplane, she crashed into a wall and sustained two scalp lacerations). She was switched to Elavil, which made her condition worse, and then to thioridazine. Finally the mother discontinued all the drugs, and within a month the child’s behavior became normal and remained that way at the time of follow-up at five years.


Periodic and circular insanity

Jul 26, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

An epidemic is sweeping the nation, a crippling, perhaps lifelong, sometimes fatal condition known as juvenile bipolar disorder.

The term “bipolar disorder” refers to episodes of depression alternating with mania. The term mania is one that gets bandied about quite a bit in everyday parlance, often in a jocular fashion, so it is worth taking a moment to consider what clinicians mean by the term. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, defines a manic episode as a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased goal-directed activity lasting at least one week. The disturbance must be sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or to have psychotic features.


“He was a beautiful child”

Jul 25, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

That’s how Anne, a nurse by trade, remembers her eldest son, William.

“He laughed a lot,” she recalls. “He liked to have fun. He played the piano beautifully.” He was fascinated by fire engines, and Anne used to take the boy to the local fire house for visits. The fire captain told Anne “Your son can roll up the fire hose better than some of my firemen.”


Fat? Maybe you can’t blame your genes after all

May 2, 2016 — Patrick D Hahn

—“Fat? Blame your genes, say doctors”
—“Overweight? Maybe you really can blame your genes”
—“Blame your genes for obesity”

Headlines such as these have become a staple of science and health journalism. Are they right? Are obese people really helpless victims of their genes?

Let us begin by distinguishing between “monogenic” obesity and what scientists call “common” obesity. Monogenic obesity, as the name implies, is caused by a mutation in a single gene, which is inherited in a Mendelian fashion, just as conditions such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis are. In the case of monogenic obesity, the mutation derails the body’s ability to turn off hunger signals after an individual has eaten. This type of obesity usually is characterized by insatiable hunger and severe, early-childhood-onset obesity. Monogenic obesity in turn is divided into two subcategories: syndromic and non-syndromic.


Are statin news stories hazardous to your health?

Dec 14, 2015 — Patrick D Hahn

Are negative news stories about statins hazardous to your health?

Some Danish researchers wanted to find an answer to that questions. In a study published online December 2 in the European Heart Journal, Doctors Sune Fallagaard Nielsen and Borge Gronne Nordestgaard examined the Danish Civil Registration System records for data on statin prescriptions, heart attacks, and death from cardiovascular disease, and compared them to the incidence of statin-related news stories in the Danish media, for the period 1995-2010. The researchers found 1,931 news stories, and graded them as either positive (731 stories) neutral (1090 stories) or negative (110 stories).


Rages that make no sense at all

Dec 11, 2015 — Patrick D Hahn

The headline proclaimed “Anti-smoking drug Champix does not raise risk of suicide or depression.”

This was a reference to a study published last September by Daniel Kotz and his colleagues in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, which compared the cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric risks of Chantix with two other stop smoking drugs: bupropion (trade name Zyban) and nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT.

The generic name for Chantix is varenicline. Outside the United states, varenicline is marketed as Champix.