The Misuse and Abuse of Antipsychotics

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(November is over, so is NaNoWriMo, and I’m happy to report I was able to complete the challenge under schedule and over word count.  Thanks to all for their well wishes and support!)

I took most of November off from blogging but never gave up on following the news.  Throughout the month, the topic of the misuse and abuse of antipsychotics was front and center.  It was disturbing.  And, it’s about time this subject started hitting the mainstream news.

Antipsychotics are nothing to fool around with.  They are prescribed when control of psychosis is necessary, usually to aid in the treatment of schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder.  A number of harmful and undesired (adverse) effects have been observed – refer to this list from Wikipedia: lowered life expectancy, weight gain, decrease in brain volume, enlarged breasts and milk discharge in men and women (hyperprolactinaemia), lowered white blood cell count (agranulocytosis), involuntary repetitive body movements (tardive dyskinesia), diabetes, an inability to sit still or remain motionless (akathisia), sexual dysfunction, a return of psychosis requiring increasing the dosage due to cells producing more neurochemicals to compensate for the drugs (tardive psychosis), and a potential for permanent chemical dependence leading to psychosis much worse than before treatment began, if the drug dosage is ever lowered or stopped (tardive dysphrenia).

For those of us who suffer from Bipolar and/or schizophrenia these drugs can be a godsend.  They can stop the voices, kill the hallucinations, help stabilize the moods, bring the ‘crazy thoughts’ back to center enough to allow us to function.  Bipolar sufferers and schizophrenics  can attest to the need for and (most of us, anyway) will be able to list at least a few positive effects brought about from this class of drug.  In our case, the benefits do outweigh all the risks listed above.

Sounds like a good deal, right?

Let us not forget, most swords have two edges.

Just as these drugs can help those with severe mental illnesses cope, antipsychotics also make patients calmer and more compliant, easier to control.

Hmmm…easy to control, huh?

[Put on your Nefarious Thinking Caps here.]

Which inconvenient segments of the population are the most vulnerable and therefore the easiest to control?

The young and the elderly.

My last post covered the topic of the young: Drugs Used for Psychotics Go to Youths in Foster Care.  But, it’s not just the kids in foster care who are being targeted.  If the statistics from this Daily Mail article (from the U.K.) are even close to accurate, I’d say we have a world-wide epidemic on our hands:

Soaring numbers of children as young as five are being chemically coshed with antipsychotic drugs, an investigation by Channel 4 News has found.

A staggering 15,000 children under the age of 18 were prescribed the medication last year by their GPs – double the number a decade ago.

Does this ring a bell with anyone else?  Replace ‘antipsychotic drugs’ with ‘ADHD drugs’ and I’d say we’re living back in the 1990’s.

Bristling yet?  Hold that thought.  Children aren’t the only ones being abused. The elderly are also being targeted.

Medicare is being urged to knock off misusing antipsychotics to control the senior citizen population.

  WASHINGTON — Government inspectors told lawmakers Wednesday that Medicare officials need to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs to nursing home patients with dementia, an unapproved practice that has flourished despite repeated government warnings.

http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_19445184

T0 its credit,  this short article did also mention antipsychotics can increase the risk of death in seniors.

When I read the two articles cited above back to back, I was – of course – appalled.   Then, I sat back and thought for another minute.  I really don’t know why I am so surprised.

Except for the rare soul who gives a damn and has children for all the right reasons, no one wants to parent their kids anymore.  Kids demand attention (how dare they!), need guidance (which requires more attention) and want to be loved (pretty tricky for neurotics who can’t even love themselves).  Kids are a nuisance.

The elderly?  Well, they’re not much different.  Especially for those who are headed toward dementia, they are just becoming kids all over again. They need attention and sometimes become violent as dementia progresses.

Why should adults have to put up with the inconvenience of being responsible for another person when the inconvenience can be medicated into compliance?

Before we enter into our final rant of the post, let’s not forget there are kids and elderly people alike who suffer from severe psychiatric conditions.  There are people in those two demographics who need antipsychotics for survival.  That is not even in question.

The misuse and abuse of antipsychotics is just another symptom of a larger problem.    It’s the pervasive lack of ethics that’s truly appalling.  Unscrupulous doctors in the medical profession who prescribe to control, not to heal, are deplorable.  Parents and guardians of the vulnerable and weak who seek to subdue through pharmacological  dominance are not any better.  The two combined?   An unstoppable powerhouse.  (For now.)

Hopefully this issue is getting attention in all the right places.  It is encouraging to see mainstream media on both sides of the pond giving it consideration, and a lot of you who follow this blog showing your outrage by posting comments or mailing me privately.  Perhaps sometime soon laws or safeguards will be put in place so the misuse and abuse of antipsychotics can be drastically reduced.

UPDATE:  December 3:

A copy of the Government Accountability Office Report can be downloaded here: GAO report

The topic of over-medicating foster kids now has Time magazine’s attention:  http://ideas.time.com/2011/12/02/bromides-are-no-better-than-zyprexa/?iid=op-main-lede

 

8 thoughts on “The Misuse and Abuse of Antipsychotics

    James Claims said:
    December 2, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    That’s really appalling. Antipsychotics are hardly candy and I remember from reading those little fact sheets that they shouldn’t be given to the elderly in cases of dementia. It’s also rather amazing that its GPs that are prescribing them, when really a good psychiatrist ought to be doing it. This just makes me mad, I’m going to stop now before I use up a page ranting. Thanks for the update though and congratulations on NaNoWriMo.

      ManicMuses responded:
      December 3, 2011 at 6:20 PM

      Hi, James: Thanks for the congrats! I’ve often wondered if prescribing antipsychotics would be better regulated by allowing psychiatrists only to write to Rx, but that would leave people who can only afford to see a GP and not a psyc on a regular basis up a creek. Still, something needs to be done. The topic has Time magazine’s attention. http://ideas.time.com/2011/12/02/bromides-are-no-better-than-zyprexa/?iid=op-main-lede I wonder what Judith Warner’s views on taking a stab at a different regulation model would look like. She doesn’t address that in this article. But, she makes a very good point…on the American side of the pond, there’s no context being provided as far as what the kids are being treated for when antipsychotics are prescribed and what kind of doctors are prescribing. I’d like to have seen more specificity in the GAO report utilizing the criteria the British have examined.

    ColonialPunk said:
    December 2, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Parents need to think long and hard before agreeing to give any child psychiatric drugs. Beyond any physical effects these drugs might have, they also have a profound effect on the child’s relationship to the parent upon adulthood (or even sooner). At the point where I became medicated I did have a (slight) say in what was happening, but the resentment I’ve felt from being pumped full of various drugs (even “necessary” ones, which ended up exacerbating my symptoms) has entirely outweighed any positives I may have got out of it at the time.

      ManicMuses responded:
      December 3, 2011 at 6:34 PM

      I completely agree. I’ve seen first hand what happens to kids who are pumped full of medication and my heart aches for you guys. My son’s bio-father agreed to allow his girlfriend to start pumping my son full of ADHD medication just to keep him quiet and out of the way. Long story short, my son is in my sole custody now, has been off the med for a long time, is doing very well scholastically and socially and refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with his bio-father. You and he have scars that will probably never heal. I really wish neither of you never had to go through what you did. Be well.

    […] advocates when making decisions regarding to take or not to take this class of medication and the Misuse and Abuse of Antipsychotics needs to be […]

    […] the last year, we have seen a wealth of articles spring up in some unlikely places calling out the misuse and abuse of antipsychotics. Once again this past week, an article ran in the New York Times.  A Call for Caution on […]

    Fredrik Aarø said:
    June 1, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    Abuse is the word. Nobody in psychiatric care gives you tips on diet, meditation techniques, or explain to you why any of this would work. I was 13 when given abusable stimulants like Concerta/Ritalin, it made my life boring but predictable, it wasn’t a life, it’ was just time passing a long. For all I know I might not even have the dopamine deficency adhd diagnosed patients are supposed to have, it’s just a range of symptoms that can mean anything. In another 50 years when they scan my brain they will give me a completly different diagnosis that doesn’t even exist now. I think ADHD is a too broad a spectrum! It’s understood so badly that anyone that expresses rage, irritability, bad impulse control as having some dopamine deficency. If that was the case how come it never made my life better. I’ve tried drugs that have had a huger impact on my life, and they are mostly not legal. I was drugged out of my fucking mind, I suppose it was nice¨, not having to give a shit about anything, complete anedonia. Now, after quitting, I have to struggle with the imbalance of my emotional self. I keep asking myself the question wether or not these medicines actually gave me post-traumatic stress, five years of daily use in the tender age of 13, fuck. I wish I just didn’t take those meds so I could atleast know I was fully responsible for my misery.

      ManicMuses responded:
      June 1, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Hi, Fredrik. Yes, a more holistic approach to mental illness is something I can buy into. It would be nice if psychiatrists would team with dietitians and stress counselors to give us a fighting chance on all fronts. I’m really sorry to hear about all you’ve been through. Self-medicating is so common when dealing with mental illness. You just want to make it all go away, so you don’t have to feel how horrible you feel. :) Personal question, but are you no longer taking street drugs? There really is a way to get a baseline with a proper diagnosis and start all over again. There are MANY of us who have had the wrong diagnosis, been pumped FULL of the wrong medication (not so different from taking street drugs when you think about it) and were forced to ‘dry out’ so we could start all over again – myself included. It may be a long road, but, again, it is possible. I wish you the very best of luck! Thanks for reading – I hope to see you around again.

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