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Watchdog Group CCHR Seeks to Stop American Psychiatric Association’s Push to Reclassify Electroshock Devices for Use on Children

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reclassify electroshock (ECT) devices as low risk and has recommended that it include ECT use on children.[1] The mental health industry watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), has long opposed the APA’s push of electroshock despite its devastating effects on patients, and will be protesting their latest push to expand its use on children at the APA’s annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia, May 14, 2016. CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and eminent psychiatrist, Prof. Thomas Szasz.

CCHR says that while most Americans don’t realize that electroshock is still used, the fact is more than 100,000 are electroshocked in the U.S. alone—every year.[2] The APA now wants to expand this, including using electroshock on children.[1]

The APA states that “having access to a rapid and effective treatment such as ECT is especially meaningful in children and adolescents….”[1] But CCHR points out how the electroshocking of children actually happens:

  • A child is laid out on a bed and put under anesthesia.[3] Then they are administered a muscle relaxant. The use of muscle relaxants prior to being electroshocked is due to the fact that the convulsions from electroshock were so violent, that patients commonly used to break bones.[4]
  • The use of muscle relaxants in modern electroshock procedures already puts the child at risk: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states in their “Practice Parameters for Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy With Adolescents,” that, “Muscle relaxation is achieved with succinylcholine.”[3] According to the label for succinylcholine, the drug can cause cardiac arrest, severe, prolonged respiratory muscle paralysis, and potentially life-threatening and/or fatal allergic reactions.[5]
  • The recommended voltage given in today’s ECT is actually higher than when patients were breaking bones from convulsions—the muscle relaxant may make it appear less violent than earlier forms of electroshock, but the voltage is up to 3 times higher.[6]
  • Next, electrodes are placed on one side of the head of a child or on both temples; the ECT machine is turned on, sending up to 460 volts and between 550 and 1,000 milliamps of electricity (depending on the machine) through the child’s brain. This electricity shocks the brain producing a seizure that lasts about 60 seconds.[7]

According to the FDA, ECT can cause physical trauma (including fractures, contusions, injury from falls, dental and oral injury) prolonged or delayed onset seizure and complications, including heart attack and even death. Along with these possible outcomes are permanent memory loss, confusion and cognitive dysfunction.[8]

In addition to the APA calling for the use of electroshock on children diagnosed with depression and bipolar, they include recommending it’s use on children who meet the criteria for “treatment resistance,” which is often broadly defined as “failure to achieve response or remission to at least one proven antidepressant.”[9] CCHR says that instead, the APA should be reviewing the 286 international drug regulatory agency warnings citing side effects of hallucinations, mania, psychosis, suicidal ideation, worsening depression, addiction, withdrawal and a host of other common side effects. CCHR states this could open the door to the possibility of any child being labeled “treatment-resistant” simply because the drugs aren’t working. There are already more than 8 million U.S. children are on these dangerous drugs, including 1 million between the ages of 0-5 [10].

CCHR also points out that ECT device manufacturers do not, and cannot, guarantee the electroshock machines are safe or effective for use on a child, let alone an adult. Since 1978, the FDA classified the ECT devices as a restrictive Class III, demonstrating “an unreasonable risk of illness or injury.” This is because the manufacturers have never conducted clinical trials on the machines and, despite being required to do so, the FDA failed to enforce their own order for the trials to be conducted.[11]

In continuing its long expose of electroshock and in particular on children, CCHR is organizing a protest march at the annual APA convention in downtown Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, May 14, 2016. For more information on the protest, visit this page.

Read the full article here.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.


[1] Letter to Robert M. Califf, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, from the American Psychiatric Association, March 10, 2016, p. 2,, click on: "March 10: APA Comments to the FDA Concerning the Proposed Order and Draft Guidance related to ECT Devices."

[2] “Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT),” Mental Health America,

[3] “Practice Parameter for Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy With Adolescents,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 43, No. 12, December 2004, pp. 1521-1539,

[4] Scott O. Lilienfeld, Hal Arkowitz, “The Truth about Shock Therapy,” Scientific American, May 1, 2014,; Op. cit., “Practice Parameter for Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy With Adolescents.”

[5] Anectine® (Succinylcholine Chloride Injection, USP) Label,,

[6] John M. Friedberg, M.D., “Shock Treatment, Brain Damage, and Memory Loss: A Neurological Perspective,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 134, No. 9, September 1977, pp: 1010-1013,; Linda Andre, Doctors of Deception: What They Don't Want You to Know about Shock Treatment, pp. 103-104 (Rutgers University Press, Copyright 2009),

[7] “Ronald L. Warnell, MD, Conrad M. Swartz, PhD, et al., “Clinically insubstantial cognitive side effects of bitemporal electroconvulsive therapy at 0.5 msec pulse width,” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 2011: 23 (4): 257-262,; The Brain Stimulation Clinic, Atlanta, Georgia,; Op. cit., “Practice Parameter for Use of Electroconvulsive Therapy With Adolescents.”

[8] “Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Devices for Class II Intended Uses,” Draft Guidance for Industry, Clinicians and Food and Drug Administration Staff, December 29, 2015,

[9] Op. cit., Letter to Robert M. Califf, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, from the American Psychiatric Association; Dawn F. Ionescu, Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, et al., “Pharmacological approaches to the challenge of treatment-resistant depression,” Dialogues Clinical Neuroscience, June 2015, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 111–126,

[10] IMS Health Vector One National Database Year 2013, Extracted April 2014,

[11] Am J. Psychiatry, 138:4, April 1981, p. 572.

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