Monday, September 10, 2012

The War on Drugs

"Drugs are bad, mmmkay?"

South Park is one of my favourite TV shows. The school guidance counselor constantly tells the kids that drugs are bad, but never tells them why. It's pretty funny.

I was convinced that psychiatric drugs were poison back in 2000. My psychiatrist would never explain to me why I had to take them (except that I would die if I didn't), and they didn't make me feel very well. The side effects were horrible. Weight gain, tremors, exhaustion. I didn't want to live the rest of my life like that. When I found out that one of them (I think it was Imipramine) was associated with heart disease, and that the tremors would get worse and become permanent, I was furious. I went off them, cold turkey - suffered two weeks of agonizing withdrawal, and never saw my psychiatrist again.

Turns out my psychiatrist was still living in the 1970s. Two of the drugs I was prescribed - Thioridizane and Imipramine had, for the most part, been replaced by drugs that were better understood and much more effective.

However, the fear of psychiatric medication persists. Psychiatric medicine has advanced in huge leaps. Doctors now understand most of the mechanisms of the drugs they prescribe. New brain scanning research is showing what areas of the brain are affected. The hope is that in the near future brain scans will allow physicians to see what areas of a person's mind are malfunctioning, and prescribe medication that directly repairs only that area.

The medications I am taking now have almost no discernible side effects, and have a noticeably positive effect on my well-being. I understand why I am taking them, but more importantly how they work.:

Lithium - affects the flow of sodium through muscle and nerve cellse. The flow of sodium affects mania. But it takes time for Lithium to become effective.

Aripiprazole - decreases dopamine levels. Dopamine levels contribute to mania, and are elevated in people with bipolar disorder. It is used with Lithium until the Lithium becomes more effective, then is stopped.

Lamotragine - is a sodium channel blocker in neurons. It increases the time between depressive episodes.

Clonazepam - is a slow release anti-anxiety medication. It helps people with anxiety disorders remain calm throughout the day.

Ativan - is a cousin of Clonazepam, and I use it in emergencies because it is fast acting, although its effects are brief (around four hours).  It has saved my life a couple of times.

I look forward to the day when I don't have to take as many medications as I build up resilience and receive more counseling. Until then, these drugs are enabling me to function and look after my family, especially while my wife is ill.

There are almost no side effects.

It was either drugs or Scientology.

The choice was easy.


Unknown said...

I've been on clonazepam & ativan. I had some anxiety-full-body-tremors which freaked me out after S-man had recovered from his accident.

It helped a lot.

I hated taking them because it seemed to mean that I couldn't cope on my own. Eventually the tremors went away, and I gradually lowered my dose under my GP's guidance, then stopped taking them entirely.

I've had 2 tremors since then. High-strain days. Talking about the past with the depressive/dissociative parent, and the other day was G-man's first really long crying jag & fussy day. Pretty good going I think.

I still have some Ativan in the medicine cabinet if I get stuck tremoring. I didn't take it, because both "fits" - my word, not anyone else's - lasted like 2 minutes which was nothing compared to when it drove me to the docs.

D'Arcy said...

I'm so glad that everything resolved so well.
It's true - high stress situations aggravate everything, which is partly why I've been put on so much medication. I'm hoping that when things calm down, my meds can be reduced, too. I will always carry Ativan, though.