Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson Talks Mental Health, Psychiatric Drugs

By David Konow 06/29/18

"People’s brains develop at different stages in their lives, and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to the human brain. It’s terrible what they’re doing to kids."

Bruce Dickinson

Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of British metal legends Iron Maiden, has a reputation for being very outspoken and polarizing. Now the frontman is speaking out against giving psychiatric drugs to children.

As Dickinson said in the Heavy Hour podcast, he is “not a believer” in giving psychiatric meds to children. He recalled the time when a doctor wanted to put his son Austin on Ritalin.

“I was just, like, ‘I won’t give drugs to my son. What is this? He’s five years old,'" Dickinson explained. "He looks pretty normal to me. He runs around a lot; that’s what five-year-olds do.’”

Dickinson added that “maybe” psychiatric drugs could be given to children “in extreme cases, but even then, I’m not sure. What the hell did we do before drugs with kids?"

As the father of three children, Dickinson acknowledges that “every family comes with the baggage of the previous family; it inherits it. And so you have to run with that. A certain amount of it is instinct; some of it is learned behavior; some of it is behavior that you might have to unlearn.”

Mental health issues may not be able to be "learned" away as Dickinson suggests, but his stance against prescribing children psychiatric drugs is a matter of dispute among many mental health treatment providers.

One study published earlier this year suggests that children are actually under-prescribed psychiatric medications that could help their ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. On the other hand, California had to pass multiple pieces of legislation to stop the growing trend of the overmedication of children in foster care.  

The classic Iron Maiden song "Ace’s High" includes a legendary speech from Winston Churchill, who some believe had bipolar disorder.

Dickinson says, “Churchill would unquestionably have been medicated. And many of the great leaders of the world would have been medicated. People’s brains develop at different stages in their lives, and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to the human brain. It’s terrible what they’re doing to kids. And it’s all because of the drive to categorize and put people in little boxes to make it easy for people.”

Dickinson’s children also steered clear from illicit drugs, thanks to their rock star father, who brought them out on the road when they were young.

Dickinson told The Mirror, “What was great for my kids was when they were growing up we took them out on the road. They would be backstage, and there would be some idiot who’d done too much coke sweating profusely, teeth chattering. ‘Daddy, why is that man doing that?’ ‘That’s because he’s on drugs,’ I’d say. ‘Drugs? Are they a bad thing?’ I’d say, ‘Judge for yourself.’

“The best possible antidote for people not to take drugs is to go and see a bunch of people who are completely messed up out of their brains. They got an education in drugs and made good decisions.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.