Friday, June 20, 2014

To Drug Or Not To Drug

One of my Google News topics is psychiatric drugs. It's one of those things, besides Australia, that interests me.

Today they happened to have a psychiatric drug article from Australia: "Psychiatric Drug Use Soars Among Aussie Kids".  The article says that for children ages 10-14, the use of anti-psychotic drugs has jumped 49%.  And also, more children are taking anti-depressants and ADHD medication.

I've been pretty much against these drugs...mostly for personal reasons, but also from stuff I've read. That being said, I've never been 100% against the drugs.  I've always recognized that they're definitely needed for some people. And for other people they might be helpful, and it's a person's personal choice whether they want to go down that avenue of treatment.  I guess I shouldn't say I was against the drugs. It's more like I was against the over-prescribing of the drugs. I preferred to hear of people using other methods to deal with their mental issues.  

My opinion was somewhat swayed last month when the Swedish came out with a study saying psychiatric drugs reduces violence in mentally ill people.  The majority of mentally ill people are not violent, but a minority are, and if you can prevent them from being violent, maybe more people should be drugged?  Well, already more people are being drugged. So maybe we should just be okay with that, because it might prevent a future crime.  

But then I wonder, where do you draw the line?  Is it okay to drug too many kids in order to prevent a violent act that has a slim chance of happening?  

I imagine a lot of relatively mentally healthy children are being drugged when they don't need to be. Maybe they're depressed because they've had a hard time lately and depression is a normal human reaction to shitty experiences.  Or maybe they have an overactive imagination like Nina Proudman and their visions are harmless rather than a symptom of psychosis.  So the parents decide to take them off the drug or refuse the drugs all together.  And what if one of these kids happens to truly have a mental illness, needs the medication, and they're one of the minority of mentally ill people who end up committing violent acts?  What if they murder another child, and that murder could have been prevented if the child had been medicated?

What the hell am I trying to say here?

I'm trying to say it's one of those things where there are no easy answers. Many people are drugged that don't need to be drugged. Then some people really need those drugs and they're not taking them.

It's like some children are taken from their decent homes by misguided social services professionals, while other children are left to rot in horrible ones.  Mistakes are made in both directions.

Here's another sort-of analogy. Last year I was told by a doctor that I should get a colonoscopy. I didn't really agree with him. I did my research and felt I didn't really need one. But his suggestion scared me and opened up feelings of doubt. What if he was right? What if I had some kind of cancer causing my symptoms, and I missed it because I was too stubborn to listen to the doctor's advice?

 It took me weeks to decide yes or no.  I consulted various people in my life. My mom pushed for yes. Tim leaned towards no, but with the attitude that if I feel I need it, he's not going to stop me (his attitude on most things in my life).  My dad kind of left it up to me. Like Tim, willing to accept any decision I make. My older sister said definitely yes...better to be safe than sorry. My younger sister said yes, because it will help me stop worrying.  

In the end, I said yes. My paranoia won over my fear of being a hypochondriac.  

I got the test. All was fine for the most part. I had no cancer and no celiac disease. I was relieved, but at the same time I felt stupid for agreeing to the test.  I regret it, especially since we're Americans, so the test cost us over a thousand dollars. Tim has been fighting with the medical folks for the last few months because they're wanting us to pay $800 for anesthesia. What other wonderful things could we have bought for that much money?  

I think Tim finally got the bill lowered, but the whole thing has stressed me out.  And it's made me feel very guilty...kind of ashamed, like I'm a financial drain on our family.  

But then I think, what if I said no to the test and there had been something wrong?  What if I was now dying because I waited too late to get it checked out?

The general attitude of medical literature is the same as my sister's.  Better to be safe than sorry. And that would be a brilliant attitude if medical tests were free. But they're not.  If I went to the doctor for a test every time I had a questionable symptom, we'd be in a huge financial disaster. 

In all these things, there are no easy answers.  Just thinking about them might make me go insane.  Or they'll give me stress/anxiety symptoms that leads to physical symptoms that makes me imagine I might have heart disease or cancer.  And then again, I'll end up having to decide whether to get a medical test or not.  It's a horrible cycle.  

Life can be really difficult and confusing.