In Support of Meds

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Knock on any mental health blog and you’ll be convinced that meds are part of some evil Pharma conspiracy to take over psychiatry and turn us all into zombies. Even well-meaning individuals writing on recovery tend to do so at the expense of meds and psychiatry.


    Some of the comment is justified: Pharma has indulged in outrageous marketing, too many psychiatrists have bought into industry hype at the expense of the patients they are meant to be serving, and the meds do leave a lot to be desired.


    Moreover, it is advisable that a good part of our recovery does focus on non-meds, such as various talking therapies, smart lifestyles choices, support, and mindfulness, not to mention tackling various personality issues not apparently connected with our diagnosis. Indeed, I was all set to devote this sharepost to one of these topics, but then something funny happened:

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    In my most recent Question of the Week, I decided to ask the real experts - you. "How Important Are Your Meds to You?" was my innocent question. Your answers were refreshing and informative. This from SweetLynnie:


    When I was placed on Risperdal, I was able to lead a normal, high functioning life, and I did not get sick for 12 years. Recently, my husband has terminal cancer, and I've had to assume all the responsibilities of managing his life and mine, and I'm doing just fine, thanks to, believe it or not, Thorazine, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Effexor and Depakote. My meds are the most important thing I do to maintain my high functioning lifestyle. I have a doctor friend who is convinced that all psych drugs are addictive, and we don't need them, but he is full of it! They have saved my life, and I would be lost without them.


    Similarly from Kad:


    If it wasn't for the [meds] I'm on now I would most definitely have drugged myself to death or the street, instead of just rehab.  I now know that without my brain functioning properly the craving to self medicate is utterly overwhelming, even now I need to talk myself down from time to time, but only from a glass of wine and not from a gram of cocaine. My mania would build the point of self destructiveness that the thoughts of driving my vehicle off the road or God knows what else, at the peak of it was a frenzied broken record, not to mention the obsessive behaviors, fits, and stubborn resistance to reason.


    And this from Cretin:

    In a last ditch effort, I tried an antipsychotic (the "evil" Zyprexa). It changed everything: my mind is clear (delusions and the Voice went quiet); my moods are normal (healthy reactions to life events); my stress is under control (no more panic caused by the psychosis). Zyprexa has been good to me: I have only gained about 5 lbs in the 2 years I've been on it, which is great considering the colossal amount of weight some people have experienced with it. Recurrent bouts of psychosis have taken a toll on cognition, though. Adderall has allowed me to regain a large part of it: I can read with ease instead of considerable difficulty. I have taken a break from the Adderall on occasion, but I didn't like how fuzzy the cognition was. The before and after with medication is far too great that at this point, I can't contemplate being without it.


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    This sound bite from Alxv:


    I tried to stop taking one of my meds and after 2 weeks I was in hell again. So yes, I need my meds no matter how much therapy I do.


    As a useful counterpoint, Alfredo points out:


    If we have an alcoholic partner who is giving us hell at home no medication in the world will work. Similarly when life is stable with less problems and more fun we can then reduce medication easily. Medication is not a substitute for a good and clean life. Unfortunately it is because our life is so chaotic and messed up that we need to rely on medication.


    And from Tabby:


    Overall, looking back over my life of many many years... I've had years and years on meds and I've had years and years off meds. I see very little to no difference. I struggle and suffer with the debilitating effects and affects of my mental illness. Yet, I keep getting up when my mind shouts lay down and die, and I keep stepping forward though more and more stumbling and falling face down. Still, I get back up.


    What we are seeing here is a balanced dialogue. Knock on any blog and what you tend to encounter, instead, us one-sided monologue. People who take meds tend to be marginalized in our own community, made to feel like drug addicts, told that if they only practiced mindfulness or some other flavor-of-the-month recovery tool they would not need meds. Who knows how many in our community have dealt with the disastrous consequences of a bad choice (namely going off meds) due to antipsychiatry, well-meaning recovery advocates, or peer pressure? I’ve certainly seen enough examples in the real world.


    So thank you very much, Fab Four - SweetLynnie, Kad, Cretin, and Alxv - for standing up for yourselves and injecting reality into the conversation. Yes, we’re all into recovery and various non-meds things we can do for ourselves, but what many of us tend to forget is that for nearly all of us recovery is a non-starter without meds.

Published On: September 25, 2009