Taking pills

There are lots of drugs I’ve found enjoyable and some I would recommend (more on that at a later date..) but I never trusted pills or heroin. I knew pill heads in school. They were just as bad if not worse than junkies. Stealing medication by the bag fulls, offering randomly unnamed pills of various colors for everything from heart and nerve pills to valium. Stealing vicodin from grandparents with cancer. I always refused free pills. I was never even a big fan of snorting adderall which is all the rage these days…call me old fashioned but I was just fine with coke….I’ve lost 2 friends now to heroin addiction (more depending on whether you count not dying as living) and 2 to suicide. Most heroin addicts I knew either started out on or substituted with oxycontin. I had never seen it outside of that context until a friend of mine was prescribed it after a breast implant surgery. Of course, addiction in all forms is a dreadful state of affairs that regularly ruins lives, but there are things that can be done to help addicts before their lives are taken over by drugs. For example, finding somewhere like a Washington Drug Rehab center can be very beneficial for addicts, and can help them return their life to how it was before the drugs. What’s even more concerning is that some of these substances are readily available in prescriptions.

I still can’t believe that shit is legal.

For all my juvenile self indulgence I’ve never went totally overboard and was always able to maintain good grades, a job, relationships (well you know), etc…Although my mom to this day is still really good friends with the local police chief… I’m reckless but with a large degree of self control, if that makes any sense. I trust my judgment and know my limits. I think that’s why I never wanted to take prescriptions. What doctor would know my tolerance for substances in my own body? Especially since I had gotten so much practice on my own :p I was smart and unmanageably rebellious so obviously it was suggested quite frequently that I needed to be medicated. I always refused and thank god my mom always agreed.

I stopped taking harder drugs before I went to college. I had my fun and was ready to move forward with a new chapter in my life. After years of getting by just fine on pot I went through a complicated breakup and a transfer to main campus. The transition was really difficult. I was overworked between rigorous coursework and outside work, stressed, worried I was self medicating with the wrong drug, lonely. I finally decided that maybe I should just give medication a try. Maybe I had been wrong. You know there are TV commercials about once every 10 minutes selling you pills. And billboards. And magazines. And pens. And paper. And calendars…And…

I don’t care what statistics say about prescription drug use, but it is totally and completely out of control. I just recently dated a guy who couldn’t tell people he had a prescription for Adderall because we would get calls day and night asking for the adderall price. It’s like some dirty little secret. I was all concerned and ashamed. Then I found out I had been about the only person that wasn’t on something.

At first it was amazing. I felt “happy” for the first time in years. I knew what it was like to live my life without heightened anxiety and low depressions.

Ever hear the term “chasing the dragon”? I’d heard it in the context of perusing a rush you’re never going to have again after the first time. It reminds me of that. After a few months it wasn’t the same. It felt dark and heavy.

I was going to counseling for a while, but stopped when I stopped being able to do anything actually. I couldn’t understand my coursework anymore, thinking was hard. Towards the end I was sleeping about 2/3 of the day and drinking the rest of the time. I just couldn’t feel anything and on top of it I didn’t care. I hear that a lot from other people who are taking meds. You’re not sad, but you’re not happy either. You don’t feel up or down. You just don’t feel. Period. Problem solved.

I always pictured it was like dumping a bucket of chemicals on your brain. Everything about us is so complicated, I find it hard to believe that we have found the actual and specific chemicals to ever so slightly tweak the “crazy” out of people. But then again, what do I know?

I went off the pills with the help of my doctor when my health insurance ran out. Surprisingly even without health insurance your doctor can still get you free pills through about 3 different venues (not birth control though!). I had always said that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right and commit. I never went off my pills, I did exactly as the doctor told me every step of the way. And it didn’t work. In fact it almost destroyed my life. So I decided to stop taking them.

I have never ever felt like so much shit in my entire life. Being even an hour or two late with taking effexor will make you feel dizzy, twitchy and nauseas. Withdrawing from it was a nightmare. Harder than quitting smoking cigarettes by a long shot. At least with smoking after about 4-5 days I didn’t feel a physical withdrawal anymore. The effexor was constant over about 3 months of stepping down in very small weekly increments. I had to drop out of a semester of school. I couldn’t ride the bus I was so dizzy. My thoughts were mashing together. There were days I couldn’t even stand. I just slept as much as possible waiting for it to be over. Anything to stop my body from shocking, curling up with my pillow while my cat licked my face. Dragging myself off the floor. It was a bad scene.

When I woke up it was like there was a cloud over 2 years of my life. Suddenly I was myself again and the haze was gone. I could think again. I don’t regret, because what’s the point? I learned a lot about myself. To be honest the time I spent not working and withdrawing from pills was the most rest I’d been able to get. I’d been running on 150% just to keep up. I needed a fucking break. I think if I would have been able to take a vacation I never would have sought out medication in the first place. But the beauty of being a poor American is that you never rest. You can’t or you’ll waste away and no one will notice.

Pills are handed out for everything. To kids of all ages. I know way too many people who have been on mood altering medications since elementary school. I find it sad and dangerous. An Iraq vet friend of mine told me they were sending soldiers back all pilled up after their first tour. Barely functioning and rocking back and forth. It’s some scary stuff. I’m pissed that they have been allowed to advertise on TV. I’m pissed that parents feed this shit to their children instead of raising them. I’m pissed that parents are taking them instead of changing the world. I’m pissed that no one cares that the population is popping pills and starting at the TV all day while the world literally and figuratively collapses around them. Hello?

You know what would cure 90% of the depression in this country? Not fucking torturing people, starting wars, forcing sexual repression, manipulating religion, creating institutionalized racism and sexism and poverty, stifling educational creativity, and destroying the planet. For starters. Oh yeah, and not treating people as never tiring, working machines that exist for the sole purpose of consuming and producing.

Yeah. That might help.

Fuck it. I’m going to smoke pot until the day I die. Keeps me happy, keeps me sane, keeps me lucid and keeps me thinking. Only downside is the illegal part, but now torture is legal. So the laws don’t count anymore.

I’ve had some close friends who were bi-polar and known a few schizophrenics. None of them have become fully functioning productive members of society from medication. It seems to be a constant struggle with switching medication, acclimating, withdrawing, switching, acclimating, withdrawing. I’m by no means saying that medications aren’t helpful for certain situations and people. I’ve never personally seen it, but I do believe there are cases out there or else why would we still be using them?

I thought I would share my experience in case anyone has been in the same place before or going through it now. Seems more common than you would expect. This was about 2 years ago and it’s taken me this long to rebuild my life. I helped my last boyfriend off of anti-depressants and he’s doing really well now too. His parents still take cocktails of pills, each one offsetting side effects of the others. I just don’t get it. I’m at a point that I feel like I can’t trust anything anymore. Doctors, loan companies, government, food, money, TV, air, water, language, emotion….

This whole place is sick. War is right. Torture is legal. Love is hate. Shame is pride. God is fear. This is the world I’ve walked in to? I don’t know if I should vomit or cry. I’d sleep it off again but this time my bed is gone.

Fuck the elections and fuck the superbowl. I don’t give a shit. Impeach the war criminals, throw out the complicit congress and start this over right. This is beyond surreal. Should I be knocking on people’s doors and shaking them or something? Maybe kick over their TV while I’m at it? What exactly are you supposed to do in this situation anyways?

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  1. Wonder what next week has in store….

  2. …yeah.  Lost some friends to the dragon’s tail myself.  

    But…have a friend who is a double amputee.  I’ve watched the other side of this…undermedication of pain, and telling people who are in terrible pain that they are “drug seeking”.  Doctors who are more afraid of the DEA than interested in helping their patients.  There is no nobility in crippling pain, or enduring it, unless that is a chosen part of one’s individual practice.  

    I don’t think the drugs we take are a matter of trust, but of research and personal experience.  Like any other technology, it’s our own responsibility to be educated users.  Take as few at a time as possible, and if it sucks, weigh the evidence, read for oneself, and stop.  I had an experience similar to yours with Wellbutrin (which some folks swear by); psychoimetics are not a cure, or a fix, but a very heavy hammer.  There are people who need ’em to stay out of the emergency room, and people who are far better off surfing it on their own.  One size does not fit all…

    • pfiore8 on February 8, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    cocaine for me… always tried to back to those first few times. but it proved elusive. something like trying to recapture those first few months of being in love… after 23 years. but that’s for another day, huh?

    god. not days i would choose to relive. not because anything awful happened to me. but it was just in pursuit of getting high. if you didn’t have some blow, heh. you just weren’t that interesting.

    and the utter and complete bullshit conversations that came out of our mouths… i cringe at how full of shit i was.

    i want to be free. i don’t want to be controlled by another person, a substance, a government.

    well… except for coffee that is.

  3. on kpfa the other day …..

    they interviewed steven besruchka about the rates of mental illness, and medication for depression….

    he spoke extensively about the impacts of attachment and lack of parental involvement in american childrens lives….

    very interesting…..

    good essay…..

  4. For being strong enough not only to quit antidepressants, but also for telling other people what it’s like.

    I’m working on certification as a substance abuse counselor and every day I run across some new aspect of the whole insane “prescription medications for everything!” world that just blows me away. There are specialties within rehab facilities now devoted to helping people stop taking perfectly legal medication. They’re NOT abusing anything. They’re taking drugs according to doctors’ orders, but a lot of medications are very hard to stop.

    Unfortunately, these places charge unbelievable amounts of money and if you can’t afford it, tough. Eventually, a lot of the people who didn’t have $70,000 a month to get off one drug start using something else to cope and end up in worse shape. It’s mind-boggling and there’s no end in sight.          

  5. powerful essay, Victory Coffee. huge congrats for pulling yourself up and out of that. it sounds like you were in quite a pit. I could easily picture myself slipping into a similar situation and not making it out.

    I hope this isn’t off-topic, but your last several paragraphs reminded me of a song I wrote.

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Made before we’re born and here after we die

    Never weeps, never hears, never laughs, never sleeps

    It’s perfectly alright without you

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Churning to the left, churning to the right

    Unforgiving hulk of everything that hurts

    Ripping little gears along

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Dad was Vietnam, son is now Iraq

    Never once a pause to mourn a tragedy

    Let alone the will to stop one

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    World stuck outside a box of broken dreams

    Ruined by the taint of genies hawking God,

    Branded life, some chains and a paycheck

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Stuffy air that reeks of anybody’s sweat

    Where ears are now deaf to the sound of thunder

    And the dust never settles to the floor

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Someday I want to be a crowbar

    Force it to a stop, expose the cruddy rust

    On the faces of the proudest gears

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Someday I want to be a crowbar

    Just another cog in a heavy old machine

    Someday I want to be a crowbar

  6. Next month I’m starting to work with women in a prison, with a writing program. But most of them were using street drugs, etc.

    As far as I know, the rehabs that deal with prescription meds are the “spa” type places. And some psychiatrists supposedly help wean patients off prescriptions with reduced doses, but I’m not sure how common or effective that is.

    The ironic thing is that prescription antidepressants only work for about 50 percent of the people who take them. There have been studies showing that exercise and even placebos work just as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy, too, sometimes. Like you said, there’s no one way to treat everyone, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping them from prescribing the same things over and over again — whether they’re right or not.    

  7. I work with kids in trouble and see this mindset of “fix it with a pill” all too often. As a matter of fact, today we were talking at work about how we can better “brand” what we do as an alternative to the medical model system that seems to be taking over our field.

    On a personal level, your essay feels like a punch in the gut too. A couple of years ago I had an appointment with a new dr for a physical and talked about feeling a bit “down.” We attributed it to menopause, but she gave me a prescription for effexor – after just a couple of minutes of talking. I was hesitant to use it because these periods of feeling “down” seem to come and go. So I thought I’d just wait it out for a couple of weeks and see how I felt. Wound up never taking the pills. I’ve heard other stories like yours – and it always makes me feel relieved on the one hand and angry as hell at the dr. on the other. She never mentioned any of this as she so casually wrote out the prescription.

    One final thought. I also agree with Valtin about finding something you believe in. I often think I’d be insane by now were it not for the work I get to do every day trying to tackle just one thing that I really care about. It doesn’t change everything that’s wrong in the world (blogging helps me cope with all that), but it does give my life meaning. And for that I’m grateful every day.  

  8. …are on this:

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    And while it’s true that Brian Ferry sang, “Love is the drug, and I need to score” in 1976, I personally rely on this:

    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    But on a more serious note…  Having tried untold pharma combos over 20 years to control a challenging brain-chemistry cocktail of clinical depression/cum OCD/cum Bipolar II (including two, week-long “holidays” in “the ward”), I finally (praise Hendrix and my head-man) arrived at a combo that works for me:

    60mg of Cymbalta & 20mg of Lexapro daily.  Plus, I also take 1200mg of Omega-3 Fish Oil daily to prevent heart disease; BUT it’s been provisionally found that the Omega-3 might also help with Bipolar.

    Peace.

  9. to be out in left field, but I have a theory that it is “the weather”. Since Thanksgiving there has been a non-stop campaign to bring cold weather down from the arctic, with the concentrations of pseudo-clouds the heaviest I have ever seen. Also, people everywhere are spontaneously breaking down into tears. Are the two phenomonon related? I do not know for sure, but there does appear to be a relationship.

    Yes, I know what you mean when you say pill consumption is overboard. I too take Adderall and Wellbutrin. I also know the peace of mind that can come from smoking the peace pipe.

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