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Regarding Medications

I find that people are in 2 camps about meds: they are somewhat okay with them, or they’re against them absolutely as if the issue were a religious/moral one, rather than a medical one.

Drugs are dangerous. They are! Look up adverse effects to aspirin, if you don’t believe that! You shouldn’t put anything in your body that isn't good for it. (Sadly, that includes some things you may already ingest....)

But if it became evident to you that you must have cancer or heart or gall bladder surgery in order to continue your life as you know it, would you do that? If so, you may want to consider psychotropic meds if you have symptoms of depression/anxiety/irritability/agitation or whatever that are not the consequence of a treatable medical condition and are not responding to decreased stress, psychotherapy, etc.

Your brain is an organ in your body, fed by your bloodstream, responsive to everything you are experiencing. It’s a complex and tender system. It changes all the time, like your blood, only more so, because the way the brain keeps you informed is to undergo internal change which you register as information.The chemical activity that keeps neurons working properly can be upset by all sorts of things. This is not a matter of character, it is a matter of simple bodily function. Sometimes we never know why something goes wrong--- it’s the same with many medical ailments.

If this is happening to you, you might not want your pride or your principles to keep you from treatment that could be essential to keeping your life from falling down around you. Face it: if your brain isn’t working optimally, you’re in trouble! However, because psychotropics affect your brain and neurology, you in fact must not take them unless you’re working with a professional who encourages you to start with a tiny baby-dose and increase slowly, keeping close track of your general health, mood and symptoms all the way.

Start with your MD. No one wants to suggest an anti-depressant if what’s wrong is (for instance) a thyroid problem, anemia, or a reaction to your blood pressure medication.

Next, if you feel stongly about this sort of thing and if what’s bothering you are persistent mild symptoms, you can try herbal remedies and improvements in your nutrition. Please, value yourself and your life enough to recognize whether or not these restore you to a good sense of health and well-being.

If you are having acute symptoms, your MD may want to start a conservative dose of a psychotropic. Get samples or ask for a 2-week prescription so you won’t be investing in something that may not be helpful. If if makes you feel more like yourself, more comfortable, that’s it. Your doc can help you decide when to taper off it.

If it doesn’t help within a couple of weeks, it is probably time for an expert to take over the prescribing. Ithaca has nurse practitioners who specialize in psychotropic medications, as well as psychiatrists who do so.

If you're having the kind of terrible, life-disrupting symptoms that could put you in the hospital or hurt your career and relationships, your medicator may prescribe aggressively to calm your symptoms as quickly as possible. Be aware of this, let your pharmacist help you by providing drug and drug interactions info, and let one or more confidants in on the process so they can help you with their observations.

Apart from such urgent circumstances, be cautious about any temptation or advice to increase the dose if (1) the amount you're on is working so far -- you feel more like your normal self -- or (2) you've had any possible negative effects from the current dose, including restlessness, increased negative thinking, new sleep pattern problems, or strangely vivid dreams. Wait! Slow down. Let the adverse effects subside, if they're going to. Read up on the medication, and ask questions.

The time to increase is when you're sure you have no significant adverse effects, and you still have the symptoms you are hoping to alleviate. Confirm with your medicator that your dose is being increased in the smallest possible increments.

A psychotherapist may also be helpful even if you’re sure you do not have any psychological conflicts or problems. Depending on how well your insurance coverage takes care of the expense of seeing a medication specialist, you may find it cost-effective and helpful to involve a counselor who can see you in-between times, to offer stress-relief info and help you keep track of how the medication is working or not working in your life.

Whatever you do, don’t cheat yourself out of normal life just because you’re easily embarrassed or too stubborn to take outside advice. And that applies to lots of issues besides medication!

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