It’s week 23 of the Working On Us mental health prompt series over at Beckie’s Mental Mess. For details, please visit her post. This week’s topic is medications.
- When you first were diagnosed with your mental illness/disorder, did it take a while to get used to your medications that were prescribed to you? If you answer the question, (YES), How did you feel initially? I was first started on meds during my first hospitalization. I have no memory of my first three weeks in hospital, so I’m not sure how I initially reacted to meds. I started getting electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) at the same time. They maxed out the dose on the first antidepressant I tried, and then put me on a combination of Celexa (citalopram), Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Seroquel (quetiapine). I don’t recall having any side effects.
- Depending on how long you have been on medication, how many times do you think it has been adjusted to make you feel stable? I’ve tried quite a few medications over the years. Much of my current cocktail I’ve been on since my last hospitalization, with the addition of Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine). Since then the doses of my two antidepressants have stayed the same. My lithium dose can fluctuate a little depending on my blood levels. My Seroquel (quetiapine) dose has pretty steadily increased.
- Have you ever had a bad reaction to medication? I’m not particularly prone to side effects in general. When I started Abilify (aripiprazole) it caused an abrupt worsening of my depression, so it was clearly not the right medication for me.
- Have you ever suffered withdrawals from a certain type of medication, and if so… What type was it? No. At one point I was coming off of Effexor (venlafaxine) on my own (see question 6). It’s one of the more likely antidepressants to be associated with a discontinuation syndrome. I planned a downward taper, but I was limited in what I could do because I only had the highest strength capsules. Despite that, no discontinuation effects at all.
- Do you work closely with your doctor in regards to your medication intake? (In other words, do you have a good relationship with your doctor?) . My doctor is fabulous. He recognizes that I know as much about these meds as he does, and he’s content with me being in the driver’s seat.
- Since your diagnosis, have you ever tried to not take medication and see if you can handle your symptoms of mental illness/disorders on your own? If so, how did that work out for you? Several months after my first hospitalization, I had another suicide attempt. After that I decided f*** it, the meds aren’t working so why should I take them. Luckily, I ended up getting into full remission without meds, but my deal with myself was that if I started to have symptoms again, I’d get back on meds quickly, which I did.
The next time I went off meds was for a different reason. I was unemployed, and had found out that my bully ex-boss was trying his best to destroy my career. My psychiatrist at the time was a complete jackass about it, so I fired him. I had just found a new GP. She turned out to be a jerk as well. Then I saw another GP at the same clinic, who turned out to be worse than the first GP. At that point I wasn’t prepared to deal with another jackass doctor, and I didn’t have refills left on my medications, so that was that.
- Tell us briefly how medication has affected your life? It has allowed it to continue. There’s no way I’d be alive right now without medication.
What do you see and how does it make you feel when you see this picture?
The pharmaceutical industry is a business, and like any business, their goal is to maximize profits. I think it’s important to differentiate the potential pros and cons of medications from problematic business practices of drug companies. Just because drug companies do some sketchy things, including problematic marketing practices, doesn’t mean that medications are inherently bad.
Many in the US are pro-private healthcare and pro-free market. However, when there’s limited government regulation and when there are so many different payers in the game, it’s the drug companies that have all the power when it comes to setting prices. Canada is (hopefully) moving towards a national single-payer Pharmacare system. With a whole country’s worth of purchasing power, all of a sudden the drug companies need to be competitive in terms of pricing, and at that point you can actually start to see the benefits of a competitive marketplace.
Want to know more about psych meds and how they work?