Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I Need a New Drug

Hello Albert, Brandie, Cynthia, Jennifer, and Queen and King Big O:

For some reason, you have all decided that my journal is worthy of an occasional visit.

At times, amidst all the silliness, I offer thoughts on serious subjects. A topic that I have heretofore barely touched upon is mental illness, a condition with which I am intimate. If I may, I would like to offer my father's perspective:

     It was very dark. He didn't know what had awakened him; it couldn't have been the moonrise, because his bedroom didn't face the east. It had been something else, perhaps the sound of a door or hurried footsteps. He waited, respiring as slowly as possible, but nothing further occurred to alarm him. He turned on a small lamp and glanced over at the other bed, in which his younger brother slept soundly, but saw nothing to worry him. It must have been a bad dream; nothing more.

     Morning dawned, and he and Jim arose to greet the new day. They wrestled with each other to determine who would get to use the bathroom first. After they had settled the order of progression and taken care of business, they headed down the stairs to breakfast.

     Dick, Shirley, Jim, Malcolm - they were all there. But where was Amy? What had happened to his older sister? Why was she not at breakfast? Questions from the four children were met by evasions but no concrete answers.

As it turned out, my Aunt Amy had been taken in the middle of the night and sent to an institution upstate; she became, as it were, persona non grata; she was no longer mentioned in polite conversation. It was almost as if she had never existed.

I do not blame my grandparents for depriving me of the knowledge that I had another aunt; they were good people, and they did as well by her as they could and what they thought was best.

In the year 1936, this is the way mental illness was handled. Only 69 years ago, mental illness was treated as if it were a horrible stain upon a family; something of which to be ashamed and never to be mentioned, if it could at all be avoided. What a travesty.

I am not certain that even today, in this year of our Lord 2005, understanding is universal. Mental illness seems still to be a topic that is generally shunned,even though the daily news is rife with stories of people who seem to have gone off the deep end.

I have much more to say upon this topic at a later date, but for now I would ask you to consider this - each of us, each individual, is unique in the way in which we cope with the world and deal with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. None of us is adequately equipped to deal with the totality of what life has determined should be thrown our way, but the Creator has endowed us with the basics, and that, ultimately, will have to be enough.


What got me thinking about all of this is a commercial advertising Wellbutrin. Some of you may have seen a rant that was briefly posted here earlier this morning. I deleted it, because when I wrote it I was pretty well lubricated.

Before I paid a visit to a hospital-affiliated facility some years ago, I had never heard of Wellbutrin; now it is being advertised nightly on TV. I have for some time been perplexed by the marketing of drugs directly to the consumer that are available only by prescription, and I have been perturbed by the fact that Big Pharma is spending money in this fashion, instead of lowering the prices of their medications. But today our local paper (the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) published an article on the results of a study appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In brief, the study found that doctors were more likely to prescribe prescription drugs when asked by patients about them. Other studies have apparently been conducted which indicate that direct-to-consumer marketing "can influence patient and doctor behavior. But this is the first article that says it's the patient's request that makes the difference".

It all becomes much more clear to me now. Big Pharma understands that it will sell more high-priced medications if it can inveigle consumers into badgering their doctors into prescribing them, and that doctors will often acquiesce rather than spend valuable appointment time arguing with patients. One can only hope that consumers eventually awaken to the fact that they are being used as pawns and played for fools.

Until next time, peace.


mnchickluvsocc said...

Your journal is always worthy of a visit. :) I read all of the alerts that come into my inbox for it. :) It is insightful and makes me think...I like that. :)

I think that mental illness, while not as taboo as it once was, is still a subject that makes people shift in their seats. Unless your life has been touched by it in some way, it is an uncomfortable subject for some. My brother in fact, while diagnosed with clinical depression, on meds and often has manic periods but has never been diagnosed as manic depressive, won't even speak about it. He feels like it makes him seem "crazy." I think that is what a lot of people think. But, in this day and age, there is so much out there to help people that it should not carry that label any longer. It is unfortunate that in some people's eyes it still does.

As for the drug companies and patient care...don't get me started. My mother is the manager of a large clinic and I can tell you that the mentality seems to be "Treat em' and street em." If that means giving a patient a prescription to get them out of the office, so be it.  It's not only the drug companies spending oodles of money on advertising driving up the cost of prescriptions, but the doctors who bow to the politics of the insurance companies and get the patient out of there as fast as they can no matter what the cost.


sistercdr said...

There was a line in the TV show Designing Women that I've stolen for my family -- Mental illness doesn't run in my family, it gallops. Shake my family tree and a whole bunch of nuts fall out. (Please understand that I say that with affection.) In the immediate family alone, we deal with clinical depression, anxiety disorder, and attention deficit disorder spread evenly between the three of us. Our medicine chest includes Wellbutrin, Effexor, Zolofft, Xanax, Adderall and Seroquel among others which aren't supposed to affect the mind.  Personally, I hate taking medicine, but I realize that I need it to function normally.  I hate to see prescription medicines marketed directly to the consumer.  I see it with anti-depressants, prescription weight loss drugs and more, yet the lay public doesn't have the full knowledge of how these drugs work to make an informed decision about what they need. By the way, I read your entry by way of alert, and I would have never guessed that you liquidly impaired.

queenbigo said...

Hello to you too Malcolm!  

I keep thinking of what Dr. Melfi said in The Sopranos when she first diagnosed Tony with depression.  It was something like "In this day and age, with all the medical advances, no one should have to suffer with depression."  

I've listened to people tell me that "you don't need medication to feel better, you need to lose don't have a problem".  One person even said to me "I don't need a pill to solve my problems like some people do."  Few years after she made that dumb ass comment, she got colon cancer.  She damned sure was asking for pills then to get rid of it.  But I'm getting off topic.  

I'd rather take a pill that helps me feel like a normal person than not take one and being a total nut case.  

lamove04 said...

Hey Malcom: I'm back!  I see you have more readers commenting and that you've branched out in your subjects-- ahh, the Blog Addiction has finally caught up with you!

I'm afraid to think what would have happened to me if I had had my big meltdown (1998) back in another era, without good meds.  I would have been locked away for good, I think.  Meds have truly saved my life, even if the side-effects suck.  But I hate the TV ads too-- I'm one who has had a hard time tolerating certain drugs, and when I see happy bouncing ovals chasing butterflies I want to strangle someone.  And this is a rant without liquid refreshment.  --Albert