Far be it from me –

Psychiatric Medication and Side Effects

on October 2, 2012


I grew up in a dysfunctional family and was thirteen when my grandmother died.   I became depressed.    I cried and heard voices
Without my knowledge or agreement my mother took me to the Child Guidance Clinic.  I was too frightened to speak out so I was medicated and labelled a psychiatric case.   These days  I would have been referred to a bereavement counsellor.   In my thirties I experienced an acute psychotic episode. I was hospitalised for six months and given up to 22 tablets a day
My mouth was very dry. Lack of saliva causes dental decay and I had to use an oral spray to keep my mouth moist.I had blurred vision as the medication played havoc with the focussing muscles in my eyes. I wore glasses prematurely
Fluid retention gave me swollen ankles. When I came off the anti psychotic Olanzapine my ankles were still badly swollen after a week and I was wearing shoes two sizes bigger. My GPprescribed potassium saving fast acting loop diuretics.Anti psychotic medication made me crave carbohydrates and I was desperately hungry . Chewing sugar free gum helped.    My GP prescribed artificial tear drops for my dry eyes and a coconut based preparation for my dry scaly scalp..Postural Hypotension was a problem. If I got up out of bed too quickly I would feel faint as the medication caused my blood pressure to fall. I had to lie flat for several minutes and then get up again. I learned to sit up first and then count to twenty before I stood up.

I was prescribed Procyclidine which reduces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It reduces the pyramidal side effects of anti psychotic medication. Procyclidine was given to me as an emergency treatment when I reacted to Risperidone. My jaw seemed to drop and I slurred when I spoke. The psychiatrist prescribed Procyclidine at half hour intervals until the symptoms stopped. I was unable to take Risperidone again – it made me see pictures of stained glass windows even if I closed my eyes
My ankles were swelling every day and a blood test showed that the ALT (Alanine Transaminase, a transaminase enzyme) was too high, indicating liver damage. My GP explained that my liver was fragile from the years of having to process all the medication. The reading did return to normal but it does show how medication harms the liver.
I had 6 treatments of electro convulsive therapy (ECT) after an electroencephalogram (EEG) . Things were normal; but a cerebral insult was seen ( a lesion which heals in time) The psychiatrist said it could be stress or the medication. An MRI scanlater showed no trace.Anti psychotic medications made me feel zombie like – my mind was “foggy” – with a sense of delay when talking. My senses were dulled. I neither used irony nor appreciated it. I felt slow mentally. I had no feelings. It was a shock to recover my feelings, dreams, reactions and sense of humour when I came off the medicationA routine eye test showed a loss of vision. I was diagnosed with cataracts. A blood test ruled out diabetes and the ophthalmologist said the lens opacity was different from the usual cataracts he saw. He asked if I’d ever taken the anti psychotic Chlorpromazine. I had, in large quantities, in l993. He said my cataracts were the result of medication. I l found out that Amitryptyline, Olanzapine and other drugs could have been to blame. The Health Trust initially said I could not expect psychiatrists to know about the side effects but I pointed out that these side effects had been listed in the BNF and MIMS since the l980s.
I have now had surgery and have artificial lens implants. I will always be angry that I developed cataracts.   If only I had been warned of the possibility; perhaps I could have made different choices.Awareness must be raised of all side effects and GPs, psychiatrists and mental health workers must discus risks at the onset of treatment. Regular check ups must be made to monitor physical health. There should be fewer prescriptions and more focus on talking therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy or meditation, mindfulness. Psychotherapy can bring about positive change in the brain, as can EMDR(Eye movement desensitisation reprocessing) without the long list of debilitating side effects. The government must invest more money in mental health research and in developing kinder and less invasive medications 


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