More than just effects

Allan Foreman on his fight to expose truth
behind the prescribed drug-induced condition he now faces.

As a school teacher, residential social
worker, and youth and community worker, I am told that I have much
experience in educating, informing, and sorting out truths from
falsehoods. As a service user, these qualities have stood me in
good stead.

In the mental health and disability field,
Mind’s yellow card scheme is achieving much to provide an accurate,
patient-led picture of the side-effects of drugs.

The scheme has highlighted many of the
problems that service users have about informed consent to taking
psychiatric drugs and the lack of talking treatments. It invites
them not only to report side-effects, but to have these
side-effects made known and professionally analysed. Information
can then be shared and made public. A survey of 501 people who
returned Mind’s yellow cards found 858 side-effects were reported,
191 of which were from anti-psychotics, for example chlorpromazine
and haloperidol. Side-effects from anti-manic drugs such as lithium
also rated highly.

One condition that was mentioned by way of a
warning in this survey was tardive dyskinesia (TD). I have an acute
form of this condition. It is a permanent, severely disabling,
prescribed drug-induced brain damage disorder. It is a type of
dystonia, which is a neurological disorder where the muscles of the
neck and shoulders go into spasms. In my case it meant I couldn’t
drive and that Ilost my job as a teacher.

I was prescribed many tranquillisers without
informed consent between 1986 and 1992. I had to be admitted to an
acute ward when the largactil I had been given brought on signs of
TD. Initially diagnosed and labelled manic depressive, I was never
officially informed that TD existed. Seven years later, and after
research on my part, I was able to tell my doctor what I suffered
from. After a long silence, he admitted that I was right. “You do
suffer in this way,” he said, “and you are the worst case I’ve ever

“How are the side-effects today, Allan?” my
doctors used to ask. But I always suspected that this enquiry about
side-effects was a cover-up for what was really a condition in its
own right. And my psychiatrist knew too. They wanted to cover it up
because these drugs damage you psychologically for life.

By chance I discovered the existence of the
Dystonia Society, a self-help group. I became an activist. I wanted
the medics to admit that over-prescribing had caused brain damage.
I invited doctors and psychiatrists to join my campaign, maybe give
a lecture on the topic of brain damage because of over-prescribing.
Surprise, surprise, my psychiatrist said no, I’m too busy. None of
the doctors locally was interested. But I have had plenty of
successes, appearing on radio and television to publicise the

When it started, my son Tom, now 10, had to
cope with seeing his father holding a carrier bag full of shopping
above his head because I had been unable to control my arm
movements. When kissing him good night, I have sometimes
inadvertently thumped him with my other arm. It is a chilling

Allan Foreman is a teacher and social worker.
He has prescribed drug-induced tardive dyskinesia

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