I have seen a handful of posts recently on Mad in America and a few other Facebook pages I follow about the struggles of being on psych drugs and the sometimes dangerous side effects of being on them. I had a brief conversation with a Facebook friend about the costs and benefits of being on these drugs, especially the role of doctors in telling patients the best and the worst about these drugs so an informed decision can be made. If you have been following my blog then you may know that I do not like psych drugs. I know that these drugs have no role in my life and I doubt the role they play in general in mental health care to the extent that they are. None of this changes that I have family and friends who living the lives they want to lead because they are on psych drugs and I am supportive of them. It is your choice and no one should make you feel bad about what you chose to do.
This conversation with a Facebook friend in combination with “discussions” I have had with my current psychiatrist about psych drugs postpartum I started thinking about how we decide if psych drugs are worth it. How do we decide if the benefits outweigh the costs? What are the benefits that keep us on these drugs and what are the costs that take us off of them?
Despite what some of the general public believes, my decision to stop using psych drugs had nothing to do with “not feeling like myself” or simply being willful. There were serious things happening to me and to ignore them could have been a disaster. Using my most recent 6 month experience with Effexor back in 2013/2014 I would like to share with you how I decided I needed to stop taking Effexor.
Trigger warning: brief mentions of suicide.
Benefits to being on Effexor (at 37.5mg)
- I was less reactive to stressors.
- I felt like I could engage with others better when in stressful situations.
- I could utilize coping skills more effectively because I was less reactive.
Costs to being on Effexor (at 37.5 mg and 75mg)
- 37.5mg, I spent the first 5 days on Effexor extremely high (physically similar to an MDMA/ecstasy high). This resulted in a lack of appetite, sleep and sore muscles. While this went away, my current psychiatrist showed great concern over this symptom as it is evidence of drug completely unleashing all of my serotonin during that time which can be extremely dangerous.
- 37.5mg, I found myself locked in a bathroom debating on whether or not to end my life.
- 75 mg, I began alternating between feeling a lot and crying to feeling nothing.
- 75 mg, the times of crying were deep depressions.
- 75 mg, the times of numbness where when I would start fantasizing about killing myself.
- 75 mg, I told my partner that I probably wouldn’t live much longer and would have this conversation like it was nothing.
When I look at my list, given that I had strong suicidal thoughts and was starting act seriously on them I knew the best choice for me was to stop taking Effexor.
I would love to hear from all of you! How have you made the decision to stay on psych drugs or come off them?