Monday, December 15, 2014

Editor-At-Large/As I See It: The Dangers of Lithium

Editor-At-Large/As I See It: The Dangers of Lithium
A Column by NYC Voices' Business Manager Marvin Spieler
Exercise Your Consumer's Right to Choose
After being on the medication Lithium Carbonate (Lithium) for twenty-one years, I became toxic. I knew potentially I could become toxic, but I was playing the odds. However, I lost in the end. Now I am on dialysis as a result, as Lithium ruined my kidneys.
The kidneys: we all have two of them, they filter our body’s blood to keep it clean. The kidneys excrete the waste products through the urine. Now as a result, I am with two kidneys that are almost useless. Dialysis acts as my artificial kidneys. Without dialysis, I would die. That’s the bottom line. Go on dialysis or die.
Here’s the problem that I now have as a result. I must go to a dialysis center three times a week. I spend approximately five hours each day there. Actually, three hours on the dialysis machine, and usually about two hours in transportation time to and from the center.
The result is that I waste three days of what used to be productive time doing other things. I used to be a mental health advocate. However, I had to drop my advocacy work. I can no longer attend meetings, go to conferences, or go on trips to Albany with NYAPRS members to keep legislators from cutting the mental health budget.
At first I became depressed over my new reality, but that has passed. I am used to my new lifestyle. I finally accepted the fact that I had to drop my mental health advocacy work. However, it is a great loss.
Why am I telling you all this? GET OFF LITHIUM NOW IF YOU TAKE THIS DRUG!! Fortunately for you, now there are substitutes like Depokote or Tegrotal that work just as well for most mental health consumers. Only in rare cases, a few consumers have no choice but to stay on Lithium. I tried Depokote and Tegrotal. Tegrotal is now my drug of choice. I am doing as well on Tegrotol as I was on Lithium. Like Lithium, I need periodic blood tests to see that the level is in balance, so that in itself isn’t new for me.
Again my advice to you is this. Seriously, have a discussion with your psychiatrist. See what he says. Listen to his point of view. But in the end you have “the right” to determine what meds you take and don’t take. That is a right you have. Use your judgment. Mental illness doesn’t kill your right to think or choose. Use your brain to control your health.
When I went on Lithium there wasn’t much else to control my moods. It worked. I had twenty-one glorious years of continuous freedom from psych wards on Lithium. I built a life for myself. I made long-term friends, met a wonderful woman and married her. We decided on no children as we both had mental illness and didn’t want to potentially pass it onto our children. That is my only regret. Children would possibly have been a blessing, but that was our choice back then. Medications were crude and usually not very effective. We didn’t and couldn’t anticipate a modern second generation on psychiatric meds. So my advice is get married and have kids if you desire to. However, be ready for the turmoil your kid or children may have initially with mental illness. Mental illness is like no other illness I know of.
By the way, I am proud to say I am hospital-free for over thirty years now, a record I am proud of. This is one of my major accomplishments in life. To be free of the goons in psych hospitals is a real joy. To no longer worry about a hospitalization as long as I take my meds daily, I do thank medical research and modern drug production.
How Long Have You Been On Meds?
To be blunt, the drug companies in this country have pushed their products to the point of being the totally acceptable panacea to help the mentally ill. It is my understanding that in Europe, medications are used as a last resort.
Also, drug company representatives, meaning salesmen and psychiatrists who represent drug companies, have brain-washed most of our American psychiatrists. We consumers, as a result, have been practically forced to take meds for life. It is my assumption that after “x” number of years on medication, it is almost impossible to get off meds on our own.
Most psychiatrists swear never to take you off meds. That is what they are probably taught. Otherwise, why is it so hard to find a psychiatrist who will help get you off? In the end, we ourselves begin to believe the common line of thought about staying on them.
After a lifetime of medication, my concentration and memory are shot. As a result, I haven’t been able to read a book in years. I guess I must be thankful not to be hospitalized for years on end. Thank you, drug industry. HAH!!

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