ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Long Term Effects of Heavy Meds, and the Trivialization of our Lives

Jack Bragen
Friday February 24, 2017 - 12:56:00 PM

In the past ten years, some of my motor skills have deteriorated. I've become clumsy, and I have difficulty negotiating staircases, especially on the way down. I am only in my early fifties.  

In comparison to this, when younger I had exquisite balance, I was slim, I was agile, and I could walk long distances, sometimes from one town to the next. Now I'm lucky if I can get out and walk the dog a half mile with my wife.  

When I turned forty, was in excess of 200 pounds, and developed hypertension, I decided that it was time for me to stop doing handstands. At one time, I could walk up and down staircases on my hands, and I could walk straight (upside down) for a distance in excess of fifty yards.  

I've mentioned this numerous times in this column--persons diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses have a shorter life expectancy, by about twenty to twenty-five years, compared to those not afflicted. The stresses of the illness could explain part of this. Yet, also, heavy psych medications taken over a period of decades will have bad effects, and that's what I'm experiencing, along with normal, understandable aging.  

Heavy medication makes it hard to exercise the body. In fact, heavy exercise probably gets a person to sweat a lot of the meds out of the body, which could then result in an increase of symptoms of mental illness. However, if heavily medicated and sedentary, it is hard to get the body to move. In fact, antipsychotic medications, through their depressing effect, make everything harder.  

As far as bad effects on the brain of being medicated long term, there is evidence to support that. I know that there are many things I can no longer do that I could do in my twenties. I've maintained my intellectual capabilities, probably because I exert my intellect in writing and meditation on a daily basis. I believe that this has prevented atrophy of the parts of my brain responsible for intellect.  

Effort is essential if we are to overcome the deleterious effects of medication. Even brushing my teeth is difficult. But since I don't want my teeth to fall out, I generally make the necessary effort involved in oral hygiene.  

Medication can apparently cause the brain to atrophy unless the patient continually exercises his or her capabilities. The alternative of not taking medication, however, is not a genuine alternative, since it is likely to cause a relapse, which will allow the mental health treatment system to force medication on us.  

Furthermore, having relapses due to not taking medication against medical advice (AMA for short), does far more harm to the brain than taking meds and staying on meds.  

Upon being medicated and stopping work for an extended time, there may be no going back, especially if you are past thirty. The capacities necessary to hold onto employment may fade away while on medication, unless they are utilized. If you do not feel capable of work, perhaps a volunteer job with part time hours could prevent loss of the capacity to work.  

Some of the changes of an aging mental health consumer could be inevitable. Some of these changes are comparable to the normal effects of aging, yet they seem to take place about twenty or thirty years sooner.  

When someone with mental illness dies young, you don't see much fuss made of it. Those who administer the mental health treatment systems don't always take our lives seriously.  

When you see those in charge of the mental health treatment systems handing out sugary cake and cookies as a reward, as a bribe, or as a pacifier, and when, at the same time, they do nothing to help us quit smoking, these are deplorable policies. I'm not just making this up, this really happens. 

Most of the "second-generation antipsychotics" which were once called "atypical antipsychotics," cause diabetes and extreme weight gain. Therefore, failure to regulate diet when taking these medications is potentially life threatening.  

General practitioner doctors are not as aggressive in treating physical ailments of the mentally ill. This is just another reason why our life expectancy is less than average. Our lives aren't valued.  

When cultures try to justify oppression of a group, such as slavery in the U.S., and the genocide of the Jews under the Nazis, the notion is promoted that the group is a lower form of human, or perhaps really a subhuman category of people. This is what we see, albeit to a lesser degree, with how mentally ill people are treated.  

Counselors take us for dumb. The idea that we are "less" is drilled into our heads on a daily basis, if we are in outpatient institutionalization.  

So, when it is clear that mentally ill people have lives that are short, that lack the good things, the material things that bring satisfaction to most Americans, not a second thought is given to it.  

It is not considered important if long term medication use is causing our brains to shrink. It is not considered important when medication causes our weight to double within a period of a couple years. It is not considered important if we have irreversible, involuntary muscle contortions of the tongue, mouth, face, and upper body. 

The purpose of the mental health treatment systems, the actual purpose, is not to help us have the best possible lives--it is to manage us and prevent us from becoming a nuisance to mainstream society.  

Mental health professionals are here to "manage" the mentally ill population. This sometimes puts them at odds with what's best for us. If we want things to be better, there are a lot of obstacles. If we want to do well in life, it is up to us.