This is a piece I wrote for my nonfiction class back at MCC, titled “Drug Information”. It’s a list of just some of the medications I’ve been on over the years and their official uses and side effects intertwined with my own experiences. Thanks for reading. –Zara
Abilify (Aripiprazole): Used to treat mood disorders as well as depression. You will be handed multiple sample packets of this to try alongside your other mood stabilizer. Your psychiatrist won’t tell you that it’s also an antipsychotic, which is probably why you don’t have success with it. It claims to improve concentration, however, you will just feel restless and irritable. You will tap your foot much more often than you already do.
Deplin (l-methylfolate): Technically a medical food, this is used in patients with low red blood cell folate. This will be added on to your Lamictal prescription, although Deplin should not be mixed with Lamictal or other anticonvulsants, as they can interfere with its effects. It can, however, be added onto an antidepressant, but remember, antidepressants are not good for your mental disorder. No common side effects of Deplin have been reported, so if you do experience anything out of the ordinary, such as an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately. You were wrong to be prescribed Deplin and you will be taken off it quickly.
Effexor (Venlafaxine): This is an antidepressant. You’re not supposed to take antidepressants, but you’re 15 and you listen to your psychiatrist blindly. Some young people have suicidal thoughts while taking Effexor, and you will be one of them. You will feel agitated and irritable, impulsive, hostile, and your thoughts will be cloudy. You will carve the inside of your forearm with a razor while taking Effexor and you will be hospitalized; don’t worry though, everything will go back to normal sooner than you think.
Gabapentin (Neurontin): An anticonvulsant, originally developed to treat epilepsy, and is currently also used to relieve neuropathic pain and restless leg syndrome, also used to treat bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. You will take this after stopping Lamictal, but it will be unsuccessful as well. Side effects include weight gain, dizziness, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, swelling of hands and feet, and blurred vision. Less common, and more serious, side effects include flu-like symptoms, jaundice, loss of appetite, stomach pain, shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, and vomiting, so beware.
Klonopin (Clonazepam): A very popular benzodiazapine. This does help to subside your anxiety, but certainly not enough, as you constantly live in a state of panic. Speaking of panic, it will not help you with your panic attacks, as it takes up to an hour for this medication to kick in. It’s almost useless, but no doctor will prescribe you Xanax, so you’ll have to deal with it. Remember to get your blood tests done to make sure your liver is still intact. You really shouldn’t drink while taking Klonopin, since it can be fatal, but you will anyway.
Lamictal (Lamotrigine): One of the many anticonvulsants you will be prescribed. It also, supposedly, treats mood episodes in adults with bipolar disorder. You will be on this medication for years and experience no positive difference, but you will be too afraid and too exhausted to switch to anything new. You may experience thoughts of suicide – ironic, isn’t it?
Lithium: A natural element which is supposed to affect mania (too bad you hardly ever experience hypomania). Despite this, you’re willing to try anything at this point, and you’ve heard of great success stories from people with bipolar disorder taking Lithium. Who cares if it destroys your kidneys? You’ve moved past that. Lithium will make you nauseous, cause your hands and feet to tingle incessantly, and screw up your digestive system, but it will pass. You already have a small bladder, but be sure to drink plenty of water while taking this medication. Also remember to go for your bi-weekly blood tests.
Tegretol (Carbamazepine): Another anticonvulsant, but it is supposed to help with bipolar disorder too. You will experience hardly any adverse side effects when starting Tegretol, which is surprising. You will feel much better around 800 mg. You will be exercising regularly, eating right, and generally feeling hopeful about the future. You will be amazed. But this will end, and you will sink back into a deep depressive state. You will gain all the weight you lost back. You will stop engaging in healthy activities. You will make poor choices. You will feel suicidal. It will be as if you did a complete 180. Your psychiatrist will continue to raise to dosage in attempt to help you, but this will cause a toxic reaction, so you will request to stop taking Tegretol. Weaning off this will be a bitch, too, just to warn you.
Topamax (Topiramate): An anticonvulsant primarily used to control epilepsy as well as prevent migraines. It’s also approved for weight loss, which is your main incentive for willingly trying it, but again, it too will be unsuccessful. It is used to treat bipolar disorder, yet there is no evidence to support its use in bipolar disorder. However, if you do become an alcoholic (and you’re well on your way), good news! It’s successful as a treatment for alcoholism. Common side effects of Topamax include dizziness, weight loss (you won’t lose any noticeable weight, though – too bad), nausea, fatigue, numbness in the arms and legs, and stomach pain.
Trileptal (Oxcarbazepine): An anticonvulsant also used to treat bipolar disorder, and another medication you will have no success with. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, weakness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, indigestion, tremors, and vision problems. Do not drink alcohol while taking Trileptal. Call your doctor right away if you experience changes in mood (shouldn’t it change your mood, though? Well, it doesn’t anyway), suicidal thoughts, signs of inflammation, liver problems, or severe skin reactions. Trileptal can decrease the sodium in your body and cause a life-threatening reaction, so be on the look out. During the sample period of a year, the FDA reported 50 deaths directly related to Trileptal. Tread lightly.