The Good and Bad of Medications

This blog post was inspired by the post of a contributor on The Bipolar Writer blog.

Short-Term versus Long-Term Effects

Are medications right in the long-run?

465E8F54-07BB-4E19-ACBA-DD159A313C73I had a thought that I wanted to share today, and it is this: are psychiatric medications useful in the long-term?

I haven’t talked much about a recent change in my medications. I wanted to preface this with, “it is imperative to speak to your mental health provider before making any medications changes, it can be deadly to just stop many psychiatric medications. 

That is what I did this summer, I talked to my psychiatrist about a change that I really wanted to do—get off of antidepressants. This came from my own personal history. Since my diagnosis almost eleven years ago, I have changed my antidepressants at least once each of those years. At times it was more than once a year. Over time, they became less and less effective. I wanted to know if I could go without this type of psychiatric medication.

So, with the advice of my doctor, I slowly decreased to a point where I stopped the medication altogether, and it took about a month and a half. I could tell right away that it was helping a lot. Between February and April of 2018, I hit one of the roughest depression cycles in almost two years. It was brutal. My depression hit levels of 2007, my diagnosis year. So I started this experiment in May, and the results have been promising.

I have decreased my depression to its lowest levels ever in my life, and to a point most days I feel little or no depression.

jacalyn-beales-435625-unsplash.jpgThat brings us back to this blog post and if psychiatric medications are useful in the long-run. I am a firm believer that medication is essential to improving mental health when a person is first starting out with a diagnosis and even in the years to follow. The problem is that, at times, doctors fail to explain the long-term effects of psychiatric medications.

At my peak, I took an antidepressant, an antipsychotic, a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety medications, and medication for sleep. That is a lot of psychiatric medication to deal with daily. It makes one think, what are the long-term effects of taking the same cocktail?

It is something that has been at the forefront of my mind of late when it comes to one medication in particular–my anti-anxiety med Ativan. I have been taking this medication since day one of my diagnosis. It is part of my daily routine, but over the last year, my doctors increased my dosage from 3mg a day to 4mg. At the time it really helped (the end of last year my social anxiety was out of control, and it was warranted.) But, I became so reliant on it especially recently, to a point where I almost felt like an addict. (Yes I know about benzos and their addictiveness, but that is for another blog post.) There was a time just four years ago when I needed maybe 1mg a day and in some days there was no need for it, I beleive that one day I can reach that level again.

For me, the long-term effect of Ativan has been more harmful than helpful. (In a side note over the last two weeks I have cut down to 3mg a day, and I am hoping to decrease it to 2mg by the end of the day.)

It comes down to if things are working well enough in your life. Medication is very tricky because without the right medications I would not be on the path to better mental health. I have met people who have gone off medications completely and are living good lives (it is true that they found some solace in alternatives like marijuana) so there is hope in all this. At the end of the day, we are all at different levels with our mental illness.

Over the next year my goal is to cutdown on all medicaiton with hope that eventually I can survive without the need to always rely on something to make life easier. It will be far from an easy journey, but I know that within this blog, and the community, I can find my way.

Stay strong my friends and family.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo Credit:

Marc Schäfer

pina messina

Jacalyn Beales

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28 Replies to “The Good and Bad of Medications”

  1. Kudo’s James. Medications have their place, as you astutely stated at the beginning of treatment. However, when there are ‘several’ medications in the mix over a long period of time, toxicity can and does build up in the tissues of the body. The long-term effects can affect a person’s biology.

    I have personally seen this with my husband, and previously with massage therapy clients and As a health provider, my role on intake would include reviewing potential ‘contraindications’ for massage therapy. Medications were reviewed not only for contraindications themselves but also screened for the drug interactions of ALL of the medications that were listed on their intake sheet. If there were potential issues I would print out the list and have them review it with their doctors. Trust me the medical community all knew my name because of it and some were not happy that I was educating their clients.

    My clients and their physicians were stunned and many made adjustments that allowed our mutual clients to not only reduce their toxicity levels, they also found many had recovered from other conditions as well.

    We are all capable of taking control of our own health and working with our medical providers. Sometimes we need to help remind them that “you” are the consciousness riding in “your” body and experiencing the effects of the medication or list of medications – not them. Communication is important when it comes to the side effects of any medication. Some will appreciate it, some will get on their high horse because “they know more than you do” – and with those, one may want to consider another provider.

    Congrats on taking control of your own health.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very well said. Thank you for helping others in the way you do. I have been psychotropic medication free since the middle of February and I feel better than I ever have. I have taken psychotropic meds. for over twenty years and pray that this can happen for many others. I agree that we have to be careful how we say things about medications becasue on my mission to educate about this many peple have gotten offended. Every day we all keep learning in the college of life and that is all we can do. Much love and hugs, Sue

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I think prescribers are often very reluctant to stop medications in case that med is helping, when in reality there wasn’t a good reason to be on it in the first place. I suspect that’s often the case with bipolar and antidepressants. It’s so important to advocate for ourselves and work with our prescribers to look critically at what we’re putting in our bodies.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I agree 100% with what you are saying. I should have been more active when I started out with medications. Unfortunately I was in the psych ward and they really didn’t give me much choice unless I wanted to stay there indefinitely. There has to be responsibility by the prescribers.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I would agree that its a strong maybe to being able to go off meds. I took Fluoxetine for several years even though it triggers mania in me. My doc and i agreed to it cuz it was the only thing to pull me putt of depression. So we would increase it in the fall and and decrease it in the spring. This spring I asked to be taken off it. I was actually on two antidepressants. It took me two months and some rebound depression but I’ve been off it since. I know the hypomania I have right now would be full-blown mania if I hadn’t stopped fluoxetine. Like you said this is not for everyone. I’ve gone off lots of pain meds this year too and a acid reflux med. I dont want to be on anything thats no longer necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is where I think prescribers fail is when you are taking something that is no longer helping. It took me telling three psychiatrists that things weren’t going right before I got off my antidepressants. I am glad you have a positive story. It is not easy to go off meds.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve made the mistake of going off meds too soon when I thought I was fine. But I wasn’t. I think I’m too impulsive at times, or maybe it’s because I have a natural loathing of reliance on meds. Taking meds, to me, is an admission of weakness, of failure. I shouldn’t think like that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I take a handful of meds three times a day, and I hate it. I understand exactly what you mean about it being weak or a failure to need them. I have an alarm on my phone to remind me to take them, but I’m sometimes in the middle of something and forget to take them. Then there are times that I’m in the middle of something, and I ‘forget’ to take them, because I really just don’t want to. I’ve tried going off of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, and I always end up back in the dark place. I do think that there are long-term consequences to taking these meds, but, if I don’t take them, my life will be miserable, and I can’t live at all that way.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you so much for writing this James. This is a tough subject to write about and you did it BEAUTIFULLY. I love the approach you took. I have always had a hard time coming up with what was the best way to approach this topic with not offending anyone or not giving bad advice etc, I beleive you found the correct approach. Thank you so much for this. I have been off ALL psychotropic medications since the middle of February and I feel better than I ever have in my entire life, except for now dealing with the aftermath of living a mental illness life so long and PTSD. The beauty of living with PTSD and no psychotropic medications is that I have no band-aid hiding my symptoms and so I have found out for sure without a shadow of doubt what my triggers are. I finally do not have anxiety or severe bipolar symptoms. My new P-doc says I do not have bipolar, but for years I had every symptom and many p-docs diagnosed me with the same illness. He can’t diagnose me with it now because the symptoms are not there. Can it be after so many years the brain changes favorably. I believe it does. They have proven this to be true with borderline persoanlity disorder. Also, we learn how to cope better after so many years. I think you are SPOT ON that after so amny years it is not good to be on these psychotropic medciations for so long. There is so much they do not know. They are trying their best. I teach special needs children now with significant impairments. Three students have gone to Madison, WI for med. washes so they can imporve their behaviors and congnition and life. If this is effective for children with severe cogitive and neurolgoical impariments like autisim etc. I believe it applies to so many with mental illness as well. Enought of my rambing… BTW. Sorry I have not contributed anything lately, but I am participating in Nanowrimo during the month of November where we write over 5000 words on our novels. I am finishing my menoir this month FOR SURE and am concentrating most of my efforts and time on that. Sorry for being so wordy. If you made it this far… thank you very much for reading and thank you for your great post. I loved it and it is so well written. I pray this happens for you. Be paitient and pray and keep fighting. Be well, my friend. Much love and hugs, Sue

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, the medication can be so helpful but without trying to reduce or stop it you’d never know if you need it or whether it’s just a habit or a crutch to support your doubts. I’ve been told I should stay on my ad for three years, atm I’m ok on them but in a year maybe I’ll want to quit early!
    You’re doing great it’s a tough decision and an anxious process x

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow! What a post! I changed meds this year after 10 years on the same one and ended up hospitalized for suicide, so they were changed again. I hate life with medications. I don’t know if I can do life without. 😭 Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s hard when they throw you on so much at once. Takes forever to figure out what works and what doesn’t 😦

        Like

  8. I often wonder if my own meds do me good long-term. Am I REALLY any better than before I started all of them? I’m not so sure. I do feel I’ve become reliant on them though, at least the Prozac and Seroquel, so that sucks. When I’ve tried to go off them it hasn’t gone well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seroquel is really hard to get off because over time it becomes less effective. I used to be able to be sleep in under a half hour on a max dose. Now it takes upwards of three hours. I also take it for a Bipolar so I may never be able to be off.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so tough and then sometimes they work for a while and stop working. Then you need a higher dosage or a different brand. Yes. Keep fighting. 💙

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Meds are certainly a roller coaster. I like the ones I’m currently on, I have a lot of tiredness but I feel it’s definitely worth it because my mood is very stable. Unfortunately I had to get off Invega Sustenna which worked amazingly well for me for 5 years. I started developing symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, thankfully my doctor noticed it almost immediately and got me off before it became permanent.

    Liked by 1 person

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