(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.
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