Thursday, June 13, 2013

PTSD Awareness Month: Medication

     Here's a hot topic in today's mental health discussions: medication.

     After this article came out, several people have asked me what I think of medication for illnesses such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Sometimes, therapists suggest clients see a psychiatrist to look at the possibility of medication. What's a client to do?

     First, I want to stress that decisions surrounding medication are personal and individual. They need to be made case by case. No one can say that one drug is the right answer for everyone with a certain condition. Not even doctors.

     Second, as I've stated many times before, I'm not a professional therapist, psychiatrist, or...pretty much anything. I really don't know much about drugs and how they work. However, I am a professional fighter. I'm not saying that I have the right answer for any one person...except myself. All I can share is my personal experience, and I hope you find that helpful if you are currently dealing with this issue.

     I don't have a lot of faith in medication. I watched my instigator take drugs for years, and not a whole lot of good came from it. "Crap" still happened. It didn't matter how many grams of aripiprazole or guanfacine she consumed; her behavior was still nowhere near something I could accept. So I started my own journey toward recovery with a very negative view of medication.

     There are a couple of reasons doctors may prescribe medication for someone with PTSD, such as for panic attacks and depression. One of the most common reasons is for sleep. A widespread symptom of PTSD (as we've discussed) is debilitating nightmares or refusal to sleep. This was the reason my therapist recommended I consider medication. I felt like I wasn't safe enough to sleep at night; even if I was in a safe place, I would relive the traumas every night in my dreams just as vividly if not more so as when I had lived them awake. Sleep was not safe, and sleep was not restful. So, sleep wasn't an option.

     Medication became an option after I went fourteen days without sleeping (this was shortly before I decided to leave the instigator). However, when I considered the hassle that would be involved, I decided against it. Honestly, I was afraid to lose control of my body once again, but this time, to medication. That fear lasted a long time. Five months after that sleepless fortnight, things got bad once again even though I was not directly involved in the same situation. This time, when my therapist recommended I visit the psychiatrist, I agreed. He prescribed Prazosin, which is a blood pressure medication. I took it a few times. It worked beautifully, but it worked very well. The first night I took it, I woke up for work the next morning and had to crawl down the hallway from the bathroom. It knocked me out for at least ten hours. For an active employee, that was a problem. I tried taking half of the pill, but since it was the smallest dosage they could give and the pills were just capsules of powder, it was difficult. Also, I was nervous about using a drug that treated a problem I didn't have (high blood pressure) just to make use of its side effects (drowsiness). I resorted to using the Prazosin if I'd not slept in days and caffeine was no longer effective.

     The psychiatrist understood my difficulty and switched me to Clonidine, another type of blood pressure medication which has been used for easing everything from insomnia to withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol to menopause. Clonidine knocked me out faster than Prazosin did, but I woke up feeling fuzzy. After a few weeks of Clonidine, I gave up on nightly use again. I have not used medication regularly since then, but I have used both Prazosin and Clonidine as needed (after the psychiatrist assured me this would be okay).

     My main problem with medications commonly prescribed for PTSD is that they affect my body. That may sound strange, but think about it. Trauma occurs when something happens to you that you can't control. Medication affects your body in ways you may know about but cannot control. That's why I have such a hard time taking medication. I don't like giving up control.

     I think it's fantastic that people are searching for a better drug for people struggling with PTSD. And if manipulating CB1 receptors through marijuana helps that, I'm glad scientists are looking for a way to make it more helpful. However, I don't think there's a miracle drug. Prazosin may work for some people; Clonidine for others. There are countless other medications that can help as well. But, once again, the decisions about whether to take medication or what medication to take need to be made case by case.

      Some fabulous resources for this are out there. Your doctor or therapist can refer you to a psychiatrist. Going to a few different psychiatrists to get several opinions can be very helpful as well. Talk to other fighters and find out what works for them and why. And, as always, if you have any questions, contact me and I will give you contact information for people who know more than I do.

     So, yes. That's my opinion on medication.

     I hope it helps you formulate your own.

Take care,


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