Should psych drugs be avoided at ALL costs?

My brain isn’t functioning today quite honestly so my apologies if the following makes no sense whatsoever. It’s long and I ended up rambling.


Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether there are any benefits to using pharmaceutical drugs. I have blogger friends who are very much anti-pharmaceuticals anything, try to avoid drugs as much as possible but take them if necessary, or think pharmaceutical drugs are a Godsend.

I’m still trying to figure out where I stand.

Pharmaceutical companies are in the business of making money. It is not to their advantage to put out completely shoddy products that do not work. I’m sure many of them bury negative data and findings that do not shed a positive light on their drugs but if something works overall, they’ll put it out there. I don’t believe the doctors who are involved in these trials are all dirty, rotten sell-outs. Some of them are very well-meaning and honest who work to make these drugs as effective as possible. Call me naïve if you like but I just can’t bring myself to believe there are more greedy docs who skew results than there are those who are concerned with advancement.

I don’t think twice about popping Excedrin Migraine when I’ve got a painful, debilitating migraine; I have no problem taking naproxen (aka Aleve) when I’ve got menstrual cramps, and taking ibuprofen isn’t an issue if I have severe muscle pain. I don’t question the safety of these drugs. I’ve used them for so long, they’ve proven to be relatively safe for me (not everyone can tolerate those drugs) and efficacious. The safety risk of taking Excedrin Migraine sometimes outweighs the benefits of not taking it. (Note: I only speak of adults in terms of ingesting this kind of medication.I don’t believe developing bodies, such as youngsters, are able to handle medication that can significantly affect mood.)

When it comes to psych meds, I am not anti-medication. Psych meds should be taken on a case-by-case basis. There are some people who consider these meds to be a life-saver while others complain that it has made them miserable and worsened their lives. This is the gamble people take when choosing to ingest a psych med—most people don’t know that. Trouble is, most people don’t know when the stakes are high enough to take that risk.

I shouldn’t be in a position to judge anyone but when I hear people taking antidepressants based on circumstances—a job loss, failed relationship, loss of a life—I worry that it’s unnecessary. We are becoming a nation that is more reliant on “quick fixes” rather than developing coping mechanisms. It’s easier to pop a pill and dull your emotions than it is to face problems, tackle issues head on, and learn to work your way through it. Case in point: rising unemployment hasn’t slowed sales of antidepressants or sleeping pills.

  • I have an aunt who was a violent paranoid-schizophrenic. She was placed in a mental institution and drugged up the wazoo. Now, she’s basically existing; the lights are on but no one’s home. The drugs have killed her. She’s alive but not really.
  • My father was a non-violent paranoid-schizophrenic. It got to the point where we needed to medicate him to get him on track. The medication helped him to function “normally” but his thought processes and physical ability was significantly slowed. He once told me that he felt useless because my mother was busting her butt at work to pay for my college and he was basically an invalid because his mental illness had prevented him from being able to work. He died 4 months later. A few days after the funeral, my mom began to find his psych meds hidden all around the house. I often wonder if the drugs killed him.
  • Another aunt (this is all on the paternal side of the family) also became a paranoid-schizophrenic. She was a brilliant woman who was basically reduced to moving from place to place to the point where she eventually became homeless and could not hold down a job. She disappeared for a while but during one cold winter, was found and brought into a homeless shelter. She was placed on meds and her cognitive functions returned despite the fact that her speech was sometimes garbled. She traveled the world, went on cruises and various excursions. The change was remarkable. Psych meds improved her life and saved her—the benefits of the drugs outweighed the side effects.

As I withdraw from Lamictal, I am curious to see who I am without this drug. Will my creative juices flow freely once again or are they now somewhat hindered? Will my cognitive functioning correct itself or will I forever suffer from problems? Will my short-term memory loss issues smooth out or will I still suffer from intermittent forgetfulness? I have some side effects that may remain with me for a while or perhaps forever (though I hope not) but seeing others fully recover after taking drugs for 10 times longer than I have gives me hope.

I feel the majority of my progress has come from intensive counseling and being infused with the truths as laid out in the Bible. I’d say 90% of my progress has been due to counseling. I give the meds 10%. You can tell I don’t place much stock in them. But they’ve helped to cut down on the mixed episodes.

So far, I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts are behaviors that are out of the ordinary. (Thank GOD.) I’ve been dealing with a mild depression but that stems from basing my worth based off of my career rather than any biological imbalances. The last time I suffered a severe depression, I was on Lexapro (if that tells you anything).

I’ve gotten a lot of resistance and concern from family members who question my decision to come off of the medication. They’ve seen a miraculous change in me and attribute it to being on meds. Meds aren’t a cure-all. They don’t see the counseling and shifting of thought processes going on that has helped me to develop coping mechanisms. Meds may help people “cope” but they don’t develop the tools needed to cope.

I’ve decided that I’ll probably give that Christian psychiatrist a call. My counselor recommended him and she said that he’s very neutral on meds and doesn’t shove them on anyone. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if anyone would accept me as a patient only to lose me in the end—she insisted he wouldn’t mind. The intake cost is hefty but since I was able to temp a few days for my job this week—I’m not permanently returning, I can swing it.

Which brings me back to my position on psych meds: I said it earlier but I think it’s a case-by-case basis. In my personal life, I’ve seen the benefits outweigh the side effects and I’ve seen the side effects outweigh the benefits. And I’ve seen benefits (not necessarily beneficial) as a result of side effects. Psychiatry is the biggest medical guessing game of all medical specialties. There are no certainties, and there’s no one medication that works best for everyone. Pharmaceutical companies make it a point to put the disclaimer on the patient information sheet that they’re not exactly sure HOW these drugs work. All that stuff about serotonin, dopamine, and neurotransmitters is pure speculation when it comes to depression. You’ll have me convinced about chemical imbalances once I can get a MRI and blood test done. Until then, it’s all trial-and-error.

So if I do suffer from relapses while withdrawing from this medication and it gets to the point where I may need to be hospitalized, I’m not averse to remaining on the drug. Better to be alive and on a psych drug than dead because I was determined not to use it at risk to my safety. If I end up having to stay on the drug, the future of giving birth to children will seem a bit more uncertain.

14 Comments

  1. RoasterBoy said,

    April 10, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Good post. I think you’ve covered the range of issues that we all face with regard to meds.
    I’ve been treated for depression for more than 40 years, often with meds, sometimes without. Some episodes went untreated and ran their course, but left a lot of wreckage behind.
    In the past three years, I’ve picked up a minor in psychopharmacology with the array of meds that we’ve used. On balance, and I’m speaking of my experience alone, ECT and then Emsam have worked well. (My last ECT treatment was in Dec 2007.)
    I was on Seroquel until a couple of months ago when the alarming data started to hit the press. My doctor and I agreed that I could do without it.
    Yep, treating mental illness is a guessing game. We know a lot about what works for large groups, but little of that knowledge can be applied directly to an individual. I’ve seen plenty of peole crippled by meds and plenty more dead or dying because they refused to take anything.
    Any good psychiatrist will tell you that this trial-and-error process is the most heart-breaking part of their practice. (In my opinion, if they can’t admit that, then they haven’t the humility to be my doctor.)
    Good luck and thanks for being out here for us.

  2. Marco Dante said,

    April 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    There seems to be an overwhelming amount of people out there questioning the safety and efficacy of drugs to treat bipolar disorder and depression. I am certainly one of them. I have done the “trial and error” thing for thirty years. We are not being treated, we are being experimented on. After Lithium sucked out all of my creativity (and still left me melancholy) and Lamictal pushed me to the edge of despair and suicide, I swore them all off. I believe there has to be a better way, especially when you consider that these drugs never cure anything, they only mask the symptoms.

  3. April 15, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Not that psych drugs should be avoided. If trying different medication for a long time and it didn’t give you any cure, try to consult with a reliable one.
    -jerry

  4. April 20, 2009 at 2:36 am

    I think you’ve brought up very important issues in this post. Yes, there are people who undoubtedly need medication.
    But…there are some people who probably just need it to get through a depression and if they could afford counseling and would implement other wellness activities could heal without taking it for an extended period.
    And, there are some who probably never need it all.
    I think it’s great that you’ve undergone intensive counseling and are making changes in your life that are making you feel better.
    I believe the greatest disservice for depressed and bipolar people is when they don’t understand how little psychiatrists know about the short-term and long-term effects of medication. And when people think that medication is a panacea, rather than just one treatment option, among many.
    Sorry for writing such a long comment, but this is a topic I feel passionately about.
    Susan

  5. Scott said,

    April 21, 2009 at 9:29 am

    I love Jesus and His Word and believe he is all sufficisent and I take Cymbalta ( and a few others)
    I constantly tell God how much I hate these pills that provide so much benefit. I beg him to reveal to me if I am making these pills “little “g” gods” to give me a little peace in lieu of self examination.
    I stay in counseling in an attempt to make sure I continue with growth and self-examination. I have a few close-safe friends that give me feedback.
    Bottom-line (for me) I can’t do it alone. I need an arsanal…fellow soldiers and ammo.
    -Scott

  6. David said,

    April 23, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I suspect that a lot of suicides, mass murders and/or suicide/murders (Columbine comes to mind)are people who are either on some sort of antidepressant or who have just quit taking antidepressants. I think it is difficult for the media to make this association because they risk being sued by giant pharmaceutical companies with huge legal budgets. Antidepressants are surely not the only factor. Media violence and availability of weapons are other factors. But in combination, the results are deadly.

  7. Adam said,

    April 30, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Can you explain the “truths laid out in the bible” quote?

  8. Marissa said,

    May 28, 2009 at 11:24 am

    One truth is that my identity isn’t found in me but my identity is found in Christ and what HE has done for me.

  9. Mike said,

    June 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Psych drugs “may” “help”
    but like you said, it is the personal progress that a person makes which elevates and saves him in the end. The drugs are just…. there. I’m personally entirely against psych drugs, and drugs all together. However I was placed on a community treatment order which forces me to take drugs. Basically takes away my rights of free will. And even though I am not a hazard to myself, nor to others, nor am I suffering from any symptoms they still think I cannot come off the medication. I think it’s a violation of human rights, but like the Bible says I guess only God can fight our battles for us in the end. I just wish I could be free so I can pursue my desires and wishes. The side effects defeintely outweigh any benefits and the benefits can be obtained organically through natural growth which was ordained by the Creator. excuse my ineloquence, it’s just the drugs are preventing me from being logical and creative.

  10. woundedduck said,

    June 18, 2009 at 12:34 am

    After two years of medication, my psych told me i’d probably have to take meds for the rest of my life, to which I responded by giving the meds the boot for 2 reasons: I couldn’t tell if they helped, and there was NO WAY a med was going to stand over me ’til my dirt nap. Suck it Forest Labs!

  11. Vivian said,

    July 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    There is no harm in taking an anti-anxiety medication provided we choose the right medication for anxiety. Never blindly consult medications provided online. Before you take medication for stress be well informed of its Do’s and Dont’s.

  12. Leticia said,

    August 15, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I think medical professionals are too quick to prescribe medication. I was given Remeron after 5 minutes of convo with my fam doctor. I didn’t take it for long, the drug didn’t change the people who came around me or any of my current situations. For this reason I also haven’t mentioned it to a dr again that I still battle depression. I’ve found ways to cope and this is far better. Medication is for some people but for others a little extra effort placed on other therapy could prove useful.

    A friend of mine who struggles with the same issues has taken to blog writing and reading his thoughts on depression open new avenues to explore how we deal with it.

    For anyone that’s interested in checking out his thoughts here’s his latest blog link:
    http://joshua-amotherslove.blogspot.com/2011/08/depression.html

  13. October 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    In your original text, you write:
    “In 2010, 253 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants.¹ (Keep in mind that the U.S. is estimated to have 307 million people in the country.² That’s about 82.4% of the population taking antidepressants.) This is not responsible; this is too much.”

    This, surely.s a serious misunderstanding of statistics. On its face, 253 million prescriptions are NOTwritten for 253 million DIFFERENT people. Many, many, may of those precriptions wld have been written over and over again for the SAnME people. To suggest that over 80% of the population is on anti-depressants is to draw a conclusion that is simply unsustainable.

    • Kassi said,

      October 21, 2011 at 6:27 am

      Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right. I revised that statistic but I’m certainly no math wizard!

      Best to you,
      K


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