People Against Coercive Treatment pres release: Psych. Drugs & Hot Weather

Graeme Bacque (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 21:41:55 -0400

People Against Coercive Treatment
V: (416) 760-2795 F: (416) 368-5984 Internet:<>

Thursday, June 24, 1999



    Summertime is once more upon us, and there is every indication  that
1999 will again be unseasonably hot.

    For most persons this will mean little more than occasional discomfort
which is easily alleviated by retreating to the comfort of an
air-conditioned space or one of the City's public swimming pools.

    For those taking certain prescribed medications, however, the summer
heat spells an increased risk of serious injury or even death.

    Chief among the medications that carry this risk are those prescribed by
psychiatrists - neuroleptics (antipsychotics) such as Haldol, Mellaril,
Chlorpromazine (Largactyl), Olanzapine (Zyprexa) and Clozapine (Clozaril)
and the more common antidepressant drugs such as Paxil or Prozac.

    Homeless persons are especially vulnerable due to the fact that  they as
a group are frequently prescribed 'antipsychotic' medications, and also due
to the fact that the homeless have less access to temperature-controlled
spaces or even adequate drinking water. This creates a potentially deadly
double jeopardy for anyone taking these drugs who is living on the streets.

    Unfortunately, psychiatrists very seldom advise their patients as to the
potentially serious hazards associated with their interventions. Likewise,
health advisories issued by the City or media related to hot weather have
repeatedly failed to take this very serious issue into consideration.
Repeated entreaties to Toronto's Medical Officer of Health have thus far
elicited no concrete action.

    Those of us with People Against Coercive Treatment (P.A.C.T.) feel that
it is encumbent on both the media and local health officials to spell out in
future advisories just which specific drugs pose the greatest risk. We also
feel that any failure by a physician (and especially a psychiatrist) to
properly advise their patients of the potential hazards associated with
their treatments constitutes medical negligence and malpractice.  Likewise,
we feel that the relevant laws must be amended in order to strip
psychiatrists of their right to 'treat' persons involuntarily, as (among
other things) this constitutes a wanton disregard for the lives of
psychiatric 'patients' and homeless persons in the summer heat.