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Happy Pills Don't Make Me Happy
Happy Pills Don't Make Me Happy
Youth Commentary, Amber Smidebush,
New America Media, Jan 20, 2006
Editor's Note: A young woman who's taken dozens of powerful prescription medicines says Americans must learn to stop popping pills.
LIVERMORE, Calif.--I've been on psychiatric medications since I was 10 years old. Today, I take six prescribed medications a day, plus three over-the-counter pills. Doctors seem to think that medications are the cure for everything, and because of that, I am stuck in a trap.
A lot of people use drugs recreationally to feel better. I do that every day with my meds and hate it. How would you like to remember that you have to take three orange ones, a blue one, a white one, a red one and one that changes color every time they up the dose? If I forget one dose, I feel like ****. I've heard from others about heroin withdrawal, and it feels like that. How is that good for my body?
In December, an annual report on American health stated that 44 percent of Americans are on prescription drugs. Many people who are prescribed narcotics or non-antibiotic medications become addicted. Some people lie about their symptoms in order to continue the medication. Withdrawals from these can be worse than withdrawals from street drugs. When and where will this stop?
I have been on so many different psychiatric medications over the years it makes my head spin -- I was even a test subject for quite a few. When my doctors told my Mom I was bipolar, they automatically gave me a bunch of pills to take. Wellbutrin, Neurontin, Seroquel, Depakote, Effexor, Inderal, Trileptal, Paxil, Zyprexa, Lamictal, Abilify -- I've taken them all. I call them happy pills; they call them "chemical balancers." At one point I was on a type of speed, much like Ritalin, that messed me up really bad. Once, I was even prescribed a narcotic that is illegal to the rest of the world.
The worst experience was when I was first put on Seroquel by this psychotic doctor. He had me on an 800mg dose every day. According to the big book of medications, that should have overdosed a 35-year-old adult male. It's no wonder I failed my freshmen year's morning P.E. class. It would take me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get out of bed each morning. I couldn't think, I couldn't see, and I couldn't be me. When my therapist heard about this, she made me stop taking it. But when I went back to my doctor, he upped my dose again! So I left that doctor, and his license was later revoked.
The doctors prescribe the pills to "make me happy." The pills just don't allow me to think. I don't have a chance to be happy or upset -- I'm just ... there. About 90 percent of the people I know on medications have had the same emotionless experience. My younger sister is diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and has been taking Aderal for the last three years. My father is taking Effexor to suppress his depression. My mother has also been diagnosed bipolar and has to take five various medications.
As of today I take multiple medications: Inderal, Abilify and Lamictal. I also take prescribed supplements of iron and L-Lysine. I am on Nexium for acid reflux disease and take various other supplements each day.
I see commercials each day about this medication and that, and how it will "change your life forever, and you'll never feel better," but I look at them and laugh. Especially because, nine times out of 10, I've taken the medication they're advertising. They never show the people who can't get out of bed, or the children taking their handful of pills each night before Mom tucks them in. They don't show the people who cry each day because they don't know what's going on and their meds make them worse than they were.
Instead of listening to problems and maybe thinking of a solution with therapy or even just cognitive thinking, doctors take the easy route and give people pills. It's almost like we're living in the world Aldous Huxley described in his novel "Brave New World." Will we become a society run by pills that keep us from being unique and normal? When will the medical field realize that they are only offering temporary solutions and possibly pain and suffering? I'm waiting for that.
Amber Smidebush, 18, is a writer for Sprawl (www.sprawlmagazine.com), a magazine for suburban youths and a PNS project. She is also a student at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif.
I can remember so well about 15 years ago when your words are the same as were coming out of my mouth then. Perhaps I was a bit older--around 20 years old. The doctors had labeled me as having bipolar illness as all sorts of other titles. I felt they disorders were "me" and I was taking pills, pills, and more pills. They even gave me these horrible niacin tablets and other mega vitamins that made me hot and itchy and the sun would sting like crazy whenever I was out of doors.
It was awful! But there is hope--it will take a lot of patience and work and cooperation on your part. And telling your doctors exactly how you are feeling will help.
After ten years of trials the doctors at the U of I Hospitals found a combination of medications that have given me back my life. I still three different kinds of meds, but I can live a fairly normal life and I am very happy. I have been married, now divorced, and have a son who finished high school early and is attending a Bible College and will become a minister. He is also a counseling major. I work part time for a social services agency with individual mental health clients who I can understand and empathize with better than anyone else in our agency (Can you guess why?) I have a boyfriend who I share much of my life with and I enjoy this relationship tremendously.
Amber, things will be better. Hang in there. I am happy, and you can be also. Your friend, iowaya
Life will get better.