psych meds and drugs – some straight talk

So much talk about mental health  is really just talk about about drugs.

  • on meds                         v       off meds 
  • meds as magical cure  v       meds are evil
  • meds                              v      drugs

…the real bipolar, eh?

  • black or white
  • Gin or Vodka
  • coke or pepsi  
  • ford or chevy 
  • greeks or romans 
  • drugs or not drugs

I’m right, you’re wrong.

Alas! poor disordered masses..
to take the drugs or not to take drugs, that is the question…..

At least that’s the question as some would like it .

Yet, “mental illness”- or whatever you call it –  is not really much about drugs at all.

It is about lives gotten stuck: complex messily human lives gotten stuck in a complex bloody mess that exhausts  the ability and resources of a person to cope and find a way out of that tangled knot.

Drugs can help, put a hold on things, create a bit of space so you can get some things sorted, space so antsy people around you can get off your back for a while.

But let’s get some things straight…

1. Psych meds do not fix a “chemical imbalance” in your brain

chemical imbalance my ass button

They never did, never will. They can’t – because that chemical imbalance is a made-up idea that is actually inside  your doc’s brain.
So, if your doc thinks his drugs will fix the chemical imbalance, good for them – have them  take the drugs.

If your doc says you have a chemical imbalance, then call them on it: go all in, ask for the river card and ask…

  1. what is the correct balance of chemicals ?
  2. what test are you going to order to check?

Lets get something straight – that chemical imbalance is five star b-rated:

  • bullshit,
  • balderdash
  • bunkem 
  • bollocks 

The fifth b?

  • more bollocks. 

Lets get some other things straight…

2. Pych meds do have an effect

Coffee has an effect , sugar has an effect, a glass of beer has an effect, a cigarette has an effect. Chemicals affect how we feel, think, behave etc. it’s dumb: dumb-ass-dumb to argue otherwise.

Now, some of that effect may be good – some may be less so. Some of that effect can really mess you up.

We have all put stuff  in out bodies to make ourselves feel better – from blueberries, to  chocolate to, well, you decide how far you go.

Taking meds is not a moral issue.

Not taking meds is not a moral issue.  
Its a choice.

Lying to people about chemical imbalances  so that they will take drugs is a moral issue.

So Doc, if you think lying to patients is the best way you can practice medicine then you really need to find a new career- try law or politics: you’ll do well.

3. People don’t hear voices because they don’t have enough pills rattling round inside em.

rattle em pllsPeople don’t get ill because their body has an insufficiency of colourful little pills. They just don’t, alright?

If you really think that they do then I’ll have two of whatever you’re drinking.

And I want the umbrella and  sparkler.

4. Drugs can really mess you up

confessions of an Rx drug pusherJust like the drugs you get from the drug pusher on the street corner,  the drugs you get from your drug supplier in the nice corner office with certificates on the wall can mess you up too.

What you put in your body is your choice. Wherever you get your drugs, if you know more about what you’re choosing -what you’re putting in your body – then you’ll be better off.


5. Drugs might alleviate  symptoms, but don’t cure and they can’t fix lives

Psyche means soul- psychiatry means soul-healing. If your soul were nothing more than  chemical soup then drugs might do more than they actually can.

It can be useful to see psych drugs in the same way we see  cold and flu drugs – they treat symptoms: suppress them, push them aside, maybe leave you a bit dopey. They don’t stop you getting flu in the first place, and they don’t stop you ever getting flu ever again.

Drugs can make you feel better – eg help you sleep, help you feel less bothered by stuff that bothers you – at least for a while.

They might also make you feel less about everything else too, and you may not like that.

You might find you need more and more of the drugs to get the same effect. If that happens with drugs from the guy on the corner its called a “drug dependency” – if it happens with the drugs from your doctor its called “medicine”.

You might find that taking the drugs puts you at greater risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and guess what? serious mental illness. Added bonus:  they can also shorten your life by 20 years.

You might decide you don’t want that but you’ll also need to decide what you are going to do. Take your time.

Drugs cannot fix whatever’s going on in your life that is making your life difficult, exhausting you and leaving you ill in the first place. Drugs can’t fix toxic relationships, a crap job, a bully boss, violence, the whole in your bank account or the one in your soul.

Only you can do that.

It takes time and you may need to learn some new skills and recruit help from good people, but you can.

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5 Responses to psych meds and drugs – some straight talk

  1. Jeanne Z says:

    I have been on anti-depressants for 30 years. I went through just about every therapy you can imagine. Nothing worked. The last 5 years they added a benzo. to the mix. I as drank alcohol. 5 months ago I quit all of them. It has been hard ever since. Not sleeping feeling like crap. But I am feeling! I am aware I am frightened and I feel! I think this is terrible what I have been through. I tell everyone I know do not take anti-depressants. They will not help you. You need to find out what your problem is without it. Whether you have inner child issues, co-dependency, low self esteem, etc. Find your cause. My brain is hurting so bad. I am praying and fixing my self esteem and inner child issues. That was my problem and any therapist SHOULD have seen it. They could have helped me.


    • Hi Jeanne.
      I’m sorry you’ve had difficult experiences with meds. Many do – and also many find they help somewhat.

      I choose not to tell people what to do whether its to take or not take drugs, I find dogma, no matter whether from from the for/anti drugs camps, less than helpful. I have found meds useful but I also expect little from chemicals, never expected meds to fix me though I did for a while go along with the chemical balance bullshit for a few months and gave them a try.

      I believe people can, with whatever help they need, and regardless of what works for everyone else, find what works for them. Basically, I can only know what works for me if I try stuff out.

      What I believe does help us make our own choices about what to try is people telling their own story of their own experiences – like you have done.
      Thank you.

      and I hope now you have identified the source of your own pain you can now find the support that you find helpful.


  2. Yes I agree and also that mental illness is a psychiatric construct, bipolar a result of psychiatric treatment, that trauma becomes symptoms and diagnoses, labels that stigmatise. For those of us who experience psychoses we are the most labelled and stigmatised, drugged and forcibly treated. In my experience, as someone who’s come through 3 psychoses, along with every other close family member of mine.

    It runs in our family but that doesn’t mean it’s genetic or biological, it just means we are sensitive, creative people who feel things deeply. The transitions of life, the physical pain of body illness, the life challenges of hormonal changes, the injustice of traumatic, coercive, psychiatric interventions. “bend over it’s for your own good” “you don’t have capacity so we will decide whether to detain you or not” “we can write what we like in the psychiatric notes and our words cannot be erased or disputed for the labels are written with indelible ink”


  3. Wow! Great piece K! Sockit to ’em!


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