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Monday, July 23, 2012

Medications and the Brain

We are all aware of the recent shootings in Aurora, CO, which has ignited discussions about gun control, recreational drugs (the perpetrator was known to use marijuana and was reported to have taken Valium shortly before the rampage), and even gun control.  What most of the media is avoiding is the topic of medications.  I've heard several radio reports, but nothing in print.  Here's a Los Angeles area radio program where some of this is discussed.  The host is a decorated US Army Reserve officer with combat experience.  If you listen to the whole show, you can hear him talk about the large number of US recruits who are enlisted with medications (e.g. they came into the Armed Services with mental health needs that were being treated with medications).  He also talks about a fellow soldier that had to be disarmed and shipped out when he went off is meds and became psychotic.  If you don't want to hear all that excitement, then fast-forward to 29:00 in the show and listen to what he's found out about the shooter.

There are others who are tracking the number of incidents where mental health medications are causing these psychotic breaks.  Children, particularly boy, are being over-prescribed medications at an alarming rate, mostly because teachers can no longer administrate punishment for unruly behavior, so they demand that a child who does not sit still and follow instructions in a robotic way should be doped into a better attitude.

This is a societal problem of unreasonable expectations, both for children and for adults.  Adults can no longer use force to correct children, and children by nature cannot control themselves in a reliable manner.  So, instead of spanking, we dope.  

The problem is that the drugs change brain chemistry in unpredictable ways.  Let's not forget that medications work on a percentage basis.  Not every medication works the same way.  So, with anti-depressants, one must go through a trial-and-error period where different medications and levels will be tried.  This is a risky time, since messing with chemistry can often make problems worse.

Going off the medications, as the perpetrator apparently did when he started his PhD program and moved away from his RN mother who was supervising his dosing.  He left hope, stopped taking the drugs, and something worse happened.

Medication problems are so common that we have countless stories involving them:

When mental medications enter the brain, the brain 'makes room' for them, chemically-speaking.  The body learns to work around these medications and integrate them into its functions.  In a word, the brain becomes chemically dependent on these drugs.  When the drugs are removed, it leaves a chemical void.  How will the brain respond?  In many cases, we are seeing violence as the result.

As we see more and more 'doping' of children, we are going to see more incidents of what happens when the dope is removed or the brain changes:

750% increase in eight years?  Yup, and with each percentage increase we have a further increase in risk of adverse effects.

As a society, we have a myth that drugs can fix any problem.  What this is doing is not only causing us to not deal with the real problems, be they guilt, fear, or the inability to sit still because you are a child and not built to sit still... but we are creating horrible problems like addiction and psychosis.

We as humans must know our limits.  What we want is often what we cannot have.  We must learn to live within our reality and not use drugs to escape.  We should turn to God for help rather than pills.  We should also learn to have reasonable expectations from life.

Otherwise, the descent into madness will continue.


  1. As one who has a mental illness I can tell you that in the past I was put on meds that were really hurting me in ways I cannot explain (must be something my body can't handle). It was hard for me to get the doctors to change my medication. Once I got off it by myself and the illness relapsed (not saying it's the only reason it relapsed). The result over the years has been my body being thrashed by bad medication, add to it multiple meds being tried until finding one that actually is accepted by my body, but still with strange side effects.

    For a number of years now, I've been fine as far as bad episodes, and I notice that people seem to place a lot on the meds I am taking. But, I actually have a different story to tell:

    Meds do not heal mental illnesses (in fact, I don't think one can "heal" from say, schizophrenia, because it's a brain chemistry problem). Meds may help a lot in stabilizing a patient and removing symptoms, maybe certain causes, but you do not want to put all your trust in the med, not at all. Medically speaking, the most important thing is counseling. You need to get the patient to admit the truth about the illness, to understand it as much as they can, and to be determined to overcome it. I think this should be a procedure, but the system simply doesn't go about it in such a way. They are usually happy if the patient doesn't display symptoms anymore, but the depth of the illness is not all that explored. Even worse, doctors sometimes have little time to deal with each problem, and so they rely a lot on the med and not so much on counseling, but I find this unacceptable and dangerous, both for the patient and the world. The happiest because of these things are, of course, the companies that make all the profit.

    Most importantly, I tell people that God has kept me the way I am over the last years. Meds and counseling help, but if you really want to heal the causes you need to deal with your passions, and ask God for His help.

    1. The reason they didn't change my med was that they weren't really taking me very seriously when I was telling them that the meds were hurting me. This actually caused me to not be very open about the illness out of fear and as a personal precaution. It took a long time to basically force them to change it, which again, is another bad thing they do -- if the patient is fed up and brave enough they basically end up telling the doctors what med to give them. (not blaming it on the doctors, but on the system).

    2. So, it's all about the meds; if the patient is on a med, they feel it's good enough, doesn't matter what med and who prescribed it, the patient or the doctor. :)

    3. Thanks for these insights, Ioan!