This SharePost continues the focus on schizophrenia medication in greater detail. It will list the numerous reasons a person might not want to take medication and effective strategies for finding the right doctor to treat you.
An estimated 40 to 90 percent of patients with schizophrenia don't take their medication as prescribed. [Morra-Carlisle, M. (2012, spring). Following the doctor's orders: compliance is the surest way to get well. SZ magazine, 10 (2), 14-15.]
Peers give numerous common reasons:
- The dosing schedule is hard to follow because they have to take multiple pills at different times of the day.
- The individual doesn't think he needs medication. About 50 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia have a condition called anosognosia, caused by frontal lobe dysfunction in the brain. In plain English, the person lacks the awareness or insight that he is sick.
- The person has garden-variety denial. Denial is actually a coping mechanism used to process information when the truth is too painful to bear. You don't want to admit you're sick because it would signal you're crazy.
- The individual has gotten completely better so believes he no longer needs the medication and will be able to function without it.
- The person is embarrassed or ashamed of needing medication.
- The individual doesn't want to experience the side effects.
- The person won't take medication because they don't believe in it or they belong to a faith that prohibits certain kinds of medical treatment.
As you can see, there are at least seven common reasons why someone might not take medication. I was diagnosed in the fall of 1987, given Stelazine within 24 hours of my breakdown, and three weeks later the positive symptoms had disappeared.
In April 1992, my doctor supervised a drug holiday that failed three months later. I was embarrassed to be diagnosed with schizophrenia because I didn't want to be crazy. Also, I held a full-time job at an insurance firm and felt I was doing well enough that I didn't need to take the medication.
In July 1992, I started taking the Stelazine again and it worked wonderfully for 20 years with only one side effect that I continued to live with. In April 2007, my current doctor switched me to Geodon which I've been on over five years now.
A curious fate for those of us who won the war against the symptoms and got our lives back better than before is that certain providers don't believe we could possibly have schizophrenia to begin with. I know two women whose doctors took them off their medication precisely because these professionals had a stereotype of the kinds of people that need treatment.
I met with a therapist for one intake session and he told me, "You don't have schizophrenia. You were bullied as a kid so developed delusions of persecution as an adult. You don't need medication. All you need is analysis. You can join my group therapy, but don't tell the other members you just got out of the hospital."