Schizophrenia And Medication - Part One

  • I aim to be a rational voice on emotional topics.

    I'm going to create a three-part "carnival" of SharePosts about schizophrenia medication. The first news article will be a general overview. Part two will talk about the reasons people have for not taking medication and how to find a good psychiatrist to get the right treatment. Part three will detail the risks of partial compliance as well as the perils of going cold.


    The best minds of my generation have been destroyed by drug holidays.


    I'm reminded of the song "Her Diamonds" by Rob Thomas with the lyrics about how the boyfriend is unable to console his girlfriend when life gets too much for her to bear. Her tears are her diamonds.

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    Would you want to be at the mercy of your psychotic feelings if you didn't have to? Would you want to be bawled up on the couch nearly every day? That song reminds me of this.


    You can cry when you need to yet you also need to itemize your wins. If you don't take your meds, you don't get to have wins. These are your accomplishments: I call them wins.


    Scratch the surface of those lives where people tout living drug-free and you'll see that the reality makes "Her Diamonds" sound like a birthday party.


    Do you love another person more than life itself? I do. Does this person keep stopping his or her medication, and keep being sucked into a vortex of hell? The person I love does. When someone you love is walking this earth in pain when they don't have to be in pain: wouldn't you agree with me?

    The rational thinking is that if he took his meds, he'd have a better life. When a person discontinues the drug and relapses, it's hard for the psychiatrist to determine if the drug was originally working effectively.

    Just starting out, the longer a person waits to get treatment, the less likely any drug will work fully effectively once he's put on it. (Harvard Mental Health Letter, November 2008)

    In cases where drugs allegedly don't work, the prime culprit is that the person isn't compliant, or skips doses or stops taking the meds. An esteemed psychiatrist told me that the root cause of the majority of the cases where the medication doesn't work is partial compliance.

    This twin culprit along with the delay in getting treatment is a recipe for disaster.

    A friend was put on Thorazine back in the early days when it was the only drug available. It didn't halt his voices, so his doctor tried every new drug that came to the market until 10 years later the newest drug stopped his symptoms completely. It was like a light switch went off: the positive result was sudden and immediate and reversed the 10 years of hell.

    In those 10 years, my friend's doctor gave him cognitive behavioral therapy that instilled effective coping techniques so that he could live with the voices while they tried every new medication that came along.

    My friend claims the fact that he stayed on the medication for 10 years, even if it had limited effectiveness, prevented any further deterioration in his brain functioning. He rose up to become the CEO of corporations.

  • The secret to his success? He received immediate drug treatment within five days of his symptoms first appearing. In my own life, I received the right help within 24 hours of my breakdown. Coincidence? Surely not.


    I couldn't possibly endorse the drug-free model to the endless family members whose loved ones remain sick because they fail to take their medication.


    The goal is not for everyone living with schizophrenia or bipolar to become the CEO of a corporation, like my friend did.


    The goal is for each of us diagnosed with a mental health condition to be able to live our life well. To be able to take control of our medical condition so that we have more good days than not-so-good days.

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    To find joy and peace and contentment.


    To live in love.


    To heal our broken brains by doing what we love every day.


    To be self-reliant.


    Taking our meds allows us to have these wins.


    Getting the right treatment right away sets the stage for a better chance at recovery. The untreated lost years ravage a person's brain so that recovery becomes much harder to achieve if not downright impossible. You can't get back this time and change things. The more drug holidays you go on, you become unable to return to your previous level of functioning. (Harvard Mental Health Letter, November 2008)

    Why should you or I rely on a guru or expert to wean us off the drugs? Everyone I know who discontinued his medication the allegedly right way got much worse off than they ever were. I know this from empirical evidence, from seeing the best minds of my generation destroyed by drug holidays.


    Each of us is the expert on our own life and our own recovery. We don't need a guru or other self-appointed expert to engineer our health. We get wins by taking action on our own to accomplish our goals. We get by with a little help from our friends and family and from our chemical friends.


    Make peace with your diagnosis because when you do you will own your recovery and be on the road to accomplishing ever greater things.


    Do you want to have a better life? Do you want to have a measure of happiness that boosts you up? Do you want to know love with another person? Love is worth the risk of taking the medication. Only by taking the medication can you be a healthy partner in a relationship.


    I get on this soapbox because I can tell you with certainty that seeing your loved ones at their worst will be as good as it will ever be if they continue to refuse to take their medication.


    In this case, the goal becomes to help them live as comfortable a life as possible.


    Right now, put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand any of the numerous reasons they might have for not wanting to take the medication. Love them with all your heart and with all your might and don't let them go it alone. Love them all the days of your life. Educate yourself about new treatments and lifestyle options and things like special needs trusts.


    We cannot quit loving our loved ones. If we have a diagnosis ourselves, we need to be able to love ourselves too.


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    Read the 2010 edition of the Xavier Amador, PhD book I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help and you will discover strategies to help your loved ones agree to take their medication and stay in treatment. Xavier Amador was able to help his brother Henry become medication-compliant, after years of refusal to take meds, by using the LEAP technique and motivational interviewing technique described in detail in the 2010 edition.


    Upwards of 60 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia and upwards of 50 percent of those with bipolar have a symptom called anosognosia, or the lack of awareness that they have an illness. So if you don't think you're sick, you won't take the meds.


    This book is equally useful for family members whose loved ones have bipolar. Henry had schizophrenia.

    We are all interdependent on each other in this world. I committed to taking the medication as much to be a good citizen of this earth as I did to stay competitive against myself and keep having wins.


    The next SharePost will detail stumbling blocks to taking medication and how to find a good psychiatrist.  The last SharePost will talk about how to set up an effective dosing schedule and how to get the most out of your treatment.



    Special Needs Trust Primer


    Early Intervention Harvard Mental Health Letter


    Xavier Amador Interview Part One


    Xavier Amador Interview Part Two

Published On: May 10, 2012