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Hate the DSM? Boycott Normal!

Jan 3 2012 | Comments 6

From one of my most beloved organizations, MindFreedom, comes an effort to challenge notions of normalcy as the American Psychiatric Association meets to unveil the DSM-5. From MindFreedom.org:

Free thinkers unite in an international campaign to question how psychiatric corporations try to control us and our democracy through their misguided idea of “normal.”

Be part of peaceful protest of the American Psychiatric Association, everywhere, especially Philadelphia, on 5 May 2012.

Occupy the American Psychiatric Association!

MFI calls on mental health consumers, psychiatric survivors and allies to Boycott Normal in response to the American Psychiatric Association’s preparation for a fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

DSM-5 would be the latest edition of what is widely known as psychiatry’s “label bible,” used to determine if people can be diagnosed with mental ‘disorders’ or ‘illness.’

Today, we challenge normality and celebrate creativity and diversity. Please join us!

Want to get involved? If you’re in Philly, email Susan Rogers at srogers@mhasp.org. She’s the nicest person on earth, so you won’t be sorry. Also, click HERE.


liz | 3:35 PM | BIG PHARMA, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, politics, stigma, boycott normal, dsm-5, mindfreedom

Shortage of Drugs for ADD/ADHD

Jan 3 2012 | Comments 5

adderall-pills

I was in CVS the other day waiting to fill my prescription for Dexedrine, when I overheard the guy in front of me being told they were out of Adderall. The pharmacy tech suggested he go to another store, but the guy said he’d been to every place in the city and couldn’t get Adderall anywhere. Fortunately, CVS did have Dexedrine, but the fact that there is a shortage of drugs for attentional issues is completely appalling and unacceptable in a supposedly first-world healthcare system.

The problem is that the Drug Enforcement Administration only allows a certain amount of Ritalin and Adderall to be produced because of the abuse potential, particularly by college kids who take the stuff like candy to stay up at night studying. The FDA, which monitors supply of the meds, is particularly distressed by the shortages and has tried to get the DEA to change its quotas. But the DEA is claiming there’s no problem, and that patients who encounter a shortage can just switch meds.

Ooh boy. I think we all know how that goes. Yeah, sure, just switch from Adderall to Ritalin–that’ll work. I remember the only time I tried Ritalin, my tongue swelled up and I ended up flat on my back in a CD store, having passed out with some weird allergic reaction. Adderall, however, was benign in terms of side effects for me. The DEA seems to be oblivious to the fact that children (who are the majority consumers of these drugs) can’t just switch around.

While there are more branded meds in supply, not everyone can afford them. This means people go without treatment, another devastating problem for kids (and for adults too, of course).

The article detailing all of this is by Gardinar Harris in the New York Times and can be found HERE.


liz | 8:39 AM | ADD/ADHD, BIG PHARMA, addiction, meds, adderall shortage, adhd drug shortage, gardinar harris, ritalin shortage

Fantastic Article Illustrates the Personal Impact of MH Cuts

Dec 29 2011 | Comments 8

Display_Sullivan

The Chicago News Cooperative takes up the problem of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to cut six of Chicago’s 12 mental health centers. In Philly, that would be devastating, so I can’t imagine it’s any different there. Of course the government is saying that people will be taken care of somehow, but that’s the kind of thing they always say, right? They say they patients from the other centers can just go to the ones that will stay open. But, um, that would mean a 71 percent increase in patients for the remaining clinics and a 0 percent increase in resources. Sounds like a plan.

Go here to read the stories of the people whose lives will be impacted by the cuts. Interestingly, though you’d imagine they’re depressing, they’re actually stories of hope. People with these illnesses are so strong, they are such survivors. They’re remarkable, and they deserve better.


liz | 2:14 PM | SCHIZOPHRENIA, bipolar disorder, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, suicide

Cara Santa Maria Explains It All for You

Dec 12 2011 | Comment 1

Over at Huffington Post (I know; clearly you can tell what I’ve been reading lately), Cara Santa Maria is doing a series called “DSM Diagnosis: How Do You Know If You Have Mental Illness?”



Isn’t she cute? I think she’s completely adorable, though I can’t wait until she grows out of the lip ring. She’s obviously trying to do a serviceable job here, and though I’m not entirely comfortable with the setup (invoking abnormal psychology), her explication of the DSM is solid enough. I think a lot of people are unaware of the way the axes work within diagnostic criteria and it makes a big difference to how they’re treated. (If your medical records are seen by more than one person — if you’re in the System for a long time — and that Axis II diagnosis included mental retardation in 1976, it probably included it in 2006, even if that diagnosis was a mistake due to your language barrier or hearing loss. I’ve seen that happen.)

Obviously, as with anything of this type, there are problems. Some of the imagery is a little goofy (note the photo of the schizophrenic person) but if you think about it, what else can you use? Santa Maria is going to be talking about this subject for a month, but you know how these things go: the real conversation is in the comments section. Please consider taking a minute or two and correcting some ill-informed opinions over there. People are saying really stupid shit and we should educate them.


liz | 8:05 AM | depression, media, meds, cara santa maria, dsm-iv, huffington post

If You Do Nothing Else Today, Read This

Apr 2 2010 | Comments 0

An incredibly eloquent submission by Joe Gutstein.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are long into the public mental health system. You have been in the hospital multiple times, in a couple of partial hospitalization programs, and have spent years in sheltered workshops and day programs. You’ve received the Prophecy of Doom, “Too sick for too long to get any better.” You’ve heard plenty of statements beginning with “You can’t, You won’t, and You will never.” You’ve been told endlessly that something is intrinsically (genetically) wrong with you and the only thing that will truly save you is a medication yet to be discovered. You’ve also been told that the most important thing you can do is get on SSI or SSDI in light of the prolonged and persistent nature of your illness. You’ve been told to engage in meaningful activities generally limited to walking, listening to music, and reading. You’ve been told countless times to avoid any stressors which might be associated with more rewarding activities and these stressors will doubtless lead to yet another hospitalization. You’ve been told so many things.

You’ve lived through several successive Eras: Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Evidence Based Practices, Transformation, Recovery and now Recovery and Wellness but the only thing that actually changed was your medication. You’ve been referred to as a patient, a recipient, a client, a consumer, a prosumer, a self advocate and now a “person with ….” but everything is the same at the hospitals, the sheltered workshops, the partial hospitalization programs and the very day program you now attend. You are now told pursuant to the Recovery model that you are suddenly empowered but what evidences your empowerment? What is it in your life that is now different? When did you last hold a meaningful job, live in decent housing, go on a date, attend to a party which wasn’t held at 3 pm or have friends over to your place? Has your health improved? Has your circle of friends and acquaintances changed? Has your income increased to provide for more options? What activities do you now engage in which you wouldn’t have before you were empowered?

Are you empowered? Not really, nothing has changed in your existence. What you do have is a familiar long standing delusion in which you are empowered. You imagine, it is part of your symptomatology, that you can provide anyone anything and everything with a CGI script. This is an empowering belief within your disempowering reality and among all the other folks at the day program it gives you a unique identity, a unique story where being unique in other areas might not be highly regarded. Fortunately, there is no impact on your role as a person in the day program unless you chatter away about it. (No more so than your peer who believes he is being watched by friends on another planet. After all, he is no longer alone all the time. Someone is watching over him where no one else might otherwise care about him.)

What is going to replace this powerful delusion and that which accrues to you by virtue of it? Let’s consider your options and the system of supports and services which will assist you in replacing it. Knowing that it is best not to ask for anything specific which might fall beyond the groups found at the day program, You say, “I want to be empowered.” The reply is “Of course, we can help you with this. Did you know that the day program has an Empowerment Group?” (You knew there was an Empowerment Group.) Consequently, you are signed up for the day program’s Empowerment Group. It meets in the same room as the Socialization Group which was going to help you get a date on Saturday night and the Pre-Vocational Group which was going to help you get a meaningful job. But you know the folks in the Empowerment Group. Not a one has become empowered. (The group meets weekly and all the chairs are in a therapeutic arrangement. There are handouts and members of the group so inclined read aloud from the handouts.)

So in the final analysis, you have the delusion and the Empowerment Group. The delusion is empowering but the Empowerment Group isn’t. Sadly, no one asked you the right question in the Era of Wellness & Recovery. Now – for the first time – the very question he or she would want to be asked in the same circumstances is being asked, “What do you need to thrive?” What is it that would lead you to hope for a life where the delusion has no value and might be patently detrimental. And for once you truly know that your answer shouldn’t be limited to something that happens in another group but involves real skills, fostered and facilitated in the real world with services and supports which promote a life. And just maybe you’ll now believe in the possibility of that date on Saturday night and a meaningful job for this new reality is more satisfying and empowering then any long held delusion.


liz | 11:05 AM | DISABILITY, SCHIZOPHRENIA, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, politics, stigma

My New Hero: Glenn Close

Oct 27 2009 | Comments 10

glenn
Not because she’s a phenomenal actor, which she is, but because she’s just initiated a new project to banish stigma. The project is highly personal, as she explains on Huffington Post:

As I’ve written and spoken about before, my sister suffers from a bipolar disorder and my nephew from schizoaffective disorder. There has, in fact, been a lot of depression and alcoholism in my family and, traditionally, no one ever spoke about it. It just wasn’t done. The stigma is toxic. And, like millions of others who live with mental illness in their families, I’ve seen what they endure: the struggle of just getting through the day, and the hurt caused every time someone casually describes someone as “crazy,” “nuts,” or “psycho”.

What’s remarkable is not her frankness about this personal history, but her motivation to act, which seems almost like a wholesale rethinking of her career and what it’s meant in popular culture. In Fatal Attraction, for example, she played a woman obsessed with Michael Douglas (those were the days, right Michael?). She loses control of the obsession and becomes terrifying. As Close writes, the movie was a great success, and audiences loved to hate her character.

Alex Forrest is considered by most people to be evil incarnate. People still come up to me saying how much she terrified them. Yet in my research into her behavior, I only ended up empathizing with her. She was a human being in great psychological pain who definitely needed meds. I consulted with several psychiatrists to better understand the “whys” of what she did and learned that she was far more dangerous to herself than to others.

The original ending of Fatal Attraction actually had Alex commit suicide. But that didn’t “test” well. Alex had terrified the audiences and they wanted her punished for it. A tortured and self-destructive Alex was too upsetting. She had to be blown away.

So, we went back and shot the now famous bathroom scene. A knife was put into Alex’s hand, making her a dangerous psychopath. When the wife shot her in self-defense, the audience was given catharsis through bloodshed — Alex’s blood. And everyone felt safe again.

The ending worked. It was thrilling and the movie was a big hit. But it sent a misleading message about the reality of mental illness.

This is a bold admission from a woman who derived so much success from this role, but there’s no escaping what she says. It has long bothered me — and, I suspect, other advocates — that the message there is one of terror and fear.

Not only does Close take on her role in that film, she assesses the entertainment industry as a whole:

Whether it is Norman Bates in Psycho, Jack Torrance in The Shining, or Kathy Bates’ portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery, scriptwriters invariably tell us that the mentally ill are dangerous threats who must be contained, if not destroyed. It makes for thrilling entertainment.

There are some notable exceptions, of course — Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, or Russell Crowe’s portrayal of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. But more often than not, the movie or TV version of someone suffering from a mental disorder is a sociopath who must be stopped.

I like to think that her speaking out will change this. As she so eloquently says, silence is the problem. Read more of her elegant prose here. It is well worth it. There you’ll find links to the initiative she’s promoting.

Thank you, Glenn, for speaking out against silence. You rock.


liz | 10:30 AM | SCHIZOPHRENIA, bipolar disorder, celebrities, depression, media, meds

Latest Video: Going Off Seroquel

Sep 24 2009 | Comments 29

The great irony of this video? Shortly after filming it, I had to resume my 100 mg dose again, which is what I’m taking now. Things got really frayed after this, but not in a depressed way, exactly — more like a psychotic way. I’m lucky in that I get to experience both and sometimes separately. Delightful! So now I’m sleeping a lot, which is good to recharge the batteries, come off the mild psychosis and deal with a pesky cold that has me producing mucus at an alarming rate. Strangely, my chihuahua is afraid of the tissue box, so every time I go for a tissue — every 3 seconds — she recoils as though I’ve just picked up a dog-beating bat (in her mind, I guess that exists).

Still, I realize that when I start working again, I’ll be able to reduce the Seroquel again to 25 mg or maybe 0 mg without much of a problem. Once I’m in a routine, I tend to do quite well. So, as those of us in recovery say every day with increasing confidence: This. Too. Shall. Pass.


liz | 2:58 PM | meds

Liveblogging Primetime Outsiders

Aug 25 2009 | Comments 18

All the below is about this show.

Madigan: They didn’t flatter you with that lighting.

David Oaks: You’re looking so handsome! I had no idea. Your eyebrows are very sexy. (I’m completely sincere.)

“But critics worry …” That’s journalism-speak for “We don’t have any specific sources who say this, but we’ll generalize it so we have reason to focus on …”

… violence. That’s what they’re focusing on. Why am I not surprised?

So of all the things they could talk about related to Mad Pride — and related to mental health — this is what they’ve come up with: criminals and violent crime. Ugh. TV is so predictable and depressing.

Okay, so now we’re telling the story of a kid with hallucinations and delusions (the CIA, yadda yadda) who KILLS HIS MOTHER? Does the average American viewer understand how fucking rare this kind of thing is? That it’s not the necessary result of deciding not to take meds?

On to the withdrawal story: Clearly, the program wasn’t looking for a success story. This poor woman who decided to do the show so they could feed off her misery — I knew that’s what they wanted. Is she doing the withdrawal in conjunction with a doctor? Who the hell knows? The show doesn’t tell you. It hardly tells you her name. And …

Oh! There it is again: “Critics worry … ” (that she’s going to be “a time bomb” without her meds). Who are these critics worrying about this girl? Frank Rich? David Denby? I’d love to know.

“Violence is unpredictable with or without drugs.” Brilliant script.

Blurry homeless images. Madigan cello-ing. … This show is so bad, it’s like a joke. I guess it all goes back to what producer Ia Robinson told me, when we discussed my being on the show: She doesn’t have any friends or family who have mental problems, so the whole topic was like “walking on the moon.” Yes, that’s the phrase she used. The show should’ve been blasted out to Mars.

Except Joey P. He’s delightful and a voice of reason.


liz | 9:34 PM | SCHIZOPHRENIA, alternative treatments, bipolar disorder, celebrities, criminal justice system, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, philadelphia, side effects, stigma, suicide, violence

Goodbye, Anti-Sacred and Profane Writing Machine

Jun 25 2009 | Comments 2

After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”

We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.

Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.


liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence

Just What We Need: Another Drug With Bad Side Effects

Jun 2 2009 | Comments 11

Is there no end to the amount of shit Big Pharma expects us to put up with? Literally?

Shares of Clinical Data Inc. (CLDA) rose after the last late-stage study on its treatment for major depressive disorder achieved the targets for efficacy and tolerance, clearing the way for the treatment’s new drug application to be filed later this year.

The biotechnology company jumped as much 14% Tuesday morning after saying its treatment, vilazodone, was generally well tolerated …

But the study also showed high rates of some side-effects, including diarrhea and nausea.

Biologic Investment Research analyst Kevin McNamara didn’t think the study was positive at all. He pointed to the high amount of patients who suffered from diarrhea – 31% – and nausea – 26% – saying the effectiveness of the treatment wouldn’t set it apart from the field.

“The incidence of diarrhea is outrageous, that’s the only groundbreaking thing about this study,” McNamara said. “There just is not another place in the market [for vilazodone].”

Clinical Data, which wasn’t immediately available for comment, pointed out in its release that only one patient out of 240 left the study because of diarrhea while three quit because of nausea.

And with two positive Phase III studies now in the books, Clinical Data says it should file its new drug application for vilazodone by the end of the year.

Clinical Data Rises On Study Results For New Antidepressant


liz | 4:14 PM | depression, meds, side effects

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