Not taking your meds? Don’t worry, there’s a drug for that.

I’ll be blunt. This disturbs the crap out of me.fda

The FDA, in the USA, is reviewing a drug that could tell doctors and caregivers if the person under their care is taking their medication. This is specifically being targeted towards individuals with mental health issues. Using a combination of Abilify (an antipsychotic) and a “digital sensor the size of a pencil tip”, doctors will be able to monitor if their patients are taking their psych drugs as prescribed.

The thought of this drug seriously makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can, of course, stretch my mind and think, “Oh, this is great because people should adhere to their medication to gain the positive effects,”…but…..that makes me feel sick too. This drug just oozes oppression, mistrust and lack of personal autonomy. I can surrender my personal beliefs about psych drugs and admit that some people, to keep them or others safe, need to be on these drugs, but to potentially use such oppressive means such as tracking their body chemistry as very upsetting.

The article opens with, “A digital drug under review by the Food and Drug Administration could offer a solution to one of the largest barriers to treating people with a serious mental illness: adherence to medication.” This sentence demonstrates what I believe is a huge problem within our mental health system and how mental health issues are viewed in society, “Who is the problem a problem for?” It sounds to me that this digital drug is supposed to make the lives of others better, not necessarily the lives of who would be taking the psych drugs or the digital drug.

People do not adhere to their psych drugs for a variety of reasons. I know for myself, I did not adhere to my psych drugs as prescribed because they were making me suicidal and homicidal. I also, as a teenager, abused my psych drugs and took many milligrams over the prescribed dose. I wish that my psychiatrist has listened to me when I told him I didn’t like the psych drugs I was on. So for me, a combination of physiological problems and issues with a mental health professional made me not adhere to my psych drugs.

Not specifically about psych drugs but I can relate to reasons 1, 2, 3, and 8.

I believe that it is important for mental health professionals to LISTEN to why their clients do not want to adhere to their psych drugs. We all have valid reasons even if professionals and caregivers do not agree. Listening tends to yield a lot of useful information. I also believe that a lack of psych drug adherence demonstrates the issue with psych drugs effects on the body and mind and the lack of available and affordable alternatives to psych drugs. For many, it is easier to get a prescription than it is to get a therapist. For some, their concerns could be managed and/or eliminated with proper therapy (and not the one size fits all therapy we currently have) without psych drugs or in combination with short-term use.

Again, yes, I get it, some people need psych drugs to be the best they can be. That is OK! But this tracking drug is NOT OK! As Jennifer Mathis, director of programs at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law says in the article, “Atypical antipsychotics can have very serious side effects, and uncertain efficacy for many individuals, so we should be extremely careful about technology that could be used to promote coercive delivery of these medications.”

We need to tread carefully as people with mental health issues have historically been treated horribly all in the name of “treatment.


38 thoughts on “Not taking your meds? Don’t worry, there’s a drug for that.

    • It is very creepy! I’m pretty sure, when I was a teen, if this had been around, my parents would have been requesting to see this information and I probably would have gotten in a lot of trouble (out of love but still…) when they saw what I was doing. It would have caused so many more problems.

    • I remember reading and commenting on your post about Bipolar med noncompliance! Even in the article, their stated reasons for people not taking their meds very much blames the victim as your blog post says.

      Thank you for your comment on my writing πŸ™‚ And thank you for commenting!

  1. Ugh, this is bonkers! We’re encouraged to be responsible and to take medication but then it’s like all trust is stripped away if this sort of pill is used. I would absolutely refuse to be a part of any sort of medication monitoring because it seems so backwards and demeaning.
    How can they trust us with a prescription for a powerful medication, which we could do anything with and then test to make sure we’re taking it properly?

  2. Yes I have seen first hand that doctors prescribe meds that are actually going to have side effects that are worse than the supposed cure. It is quite sad how these doctors try new things and sell out.

  3. I think all of those reasons for non-adherence have been true for me at one point or another. Sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling, not with the advice of a doctor who denies any connection between your antidepressant and your recent chest inflammation and says, “when the weather gets warmer, we’ll all start feeling better.”

      • I switched doctors. The second one said I had fibromyalgia; the rheumatologist said it was somatization. I was very angry and scared by that time– about nine months after the chest pain started. I dumped all my prescriptions and ran the other way– chiropractic, some homeopathic, some DBT. You’ve been a mainstay for me.

      • It helps most of the time. My pain and my mood are both heavily influenced by what I eat. The last couple weeks I’ve been trying to find a therapist. By try to find, I mean that I put the mental health center’s number into my phone, checked their hours online half a dozen times, and occasionally I take out my phone and looked at the number.

      • It can be hard to make that call. I’m putting off making it also. It’s good that you’ve set up your phone for the call and that you are taking out your phone to look at the number! Next, you’ll call!

  4. I find this very concerning, everybody has a choice in their medical care even mental health patients. This is essentially taking that choice away, saying mental health patients aren’t equipped to make a choice for themselves. Everybody has the option to make that choice, whatever their reason for not taking their meds this is not the solution. A Big Brother state around mental health just to make us all feel even less normal, just what we need!

    • I agree! It’s upsetting because, I’m sure many of us can agree that when we are given choices and control in our treatment we are happier. Many of us feel out of control so something like saying yes or no to a drug can be a very important step towards recovery.

  5. This is beyond frightening. I can picture this being used as a tool to approve or deny disability benefits. Not compliant with you meds? Benefits denied because you are not following your treatment plan. You are 100% compliant? Benefits denied because there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to work if you are following your treatment plan to the letter. I don’t like the precedent this could be setting for all medications.

  6. That is disturbing. This sounds like something that would be a central feature of a George Orwell novel. All the more disturbing because psych diagnoses lack validity and psych drugs just damp down people’s feelings, rather than treating any reliable illness.

  7. If they can track one’s body chemistry, why not use the technology to research better medications (with informed consent) instead of trying to force patients to take the crappy ones that aren’t working for them?

    • I was thinking the same thing as well! There is research currently going on that can help people who take psych drugs determine if they are genetically at risk for certain side effects of certain psych drugs (that individualized medicine) which will allow doctors to choose the best drug for them. I still find that approach to blame the victim. Make our bodies fit the drugs? How about make the drugs fit our bodies?!

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