I am reprinting psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist David Healy's most recent blog post about the Colorado tragedy. I sprung into action by posting something that I generally try to avoid on my blog - namely heightening the already considerable anguish that patients and family members are experiencing re the role of medications in treatment. But, David Healy raises some extremely apt points in his essay that you don't hear coming from the media or the general public. They certainly aren't coming from NAMI. In his blog post The Colorado Tragedy: What Families are Asking, NAMI Executive Director Mike Fitzpatrick trots out the same old yada yada yada about mentally ill people being no more violent than others, but then goes on to say:
"The Surgeon General has acknowledged that the risk of violence among individuals with mental illness increases to some degree in the case of substance abuse or psychosis , a symptom which typically involves a “break with reality” through paranoia, hallucinations or delusions. Social withdrawal may precede such breaks. Early warning signs of psychosis, particularly in the year leading up to the break, may include:"
(then more YADA YADA YADA about early warning signs follow in his post.)
Nowhere does it occur to the Executive Director of NAMI to question the fact that psychotropic medication prescribed by a psychiatrist is a legally sanctioned brain altering chemical that changes individual brains in unknown ways. The Surgeon General hasn't acknowledged this one yet, and the Executive Director of NAMI isn't questioning where the Surgeon General chooses to point his flashlight.
My youngest went to the funeral of a high school friend a couple of weeks ago who was run over by a train. Details as to what may have caused him to fall in front of a train were murky. He was being treated in a rehab clinic for addiction (big surprise to his friends from school) and my son had heard something about the drugs they were giving him slowing him down so much that he may have stumbled into the path of a train. We will never know what caused his death. The fact that the young man's family were questioning the link between his death to the drugs he was being legally prescribed at the clinic so soon after he died makes me think that these are the questions that maybe NAMI isn't asking, but others are beginning to entertain.
Without further ado, here's the Healy post.
The Hidden Gorilla
July 31, 2012Three weeks ago What would Batman do Now covered the issue of suicide in the military – an issue that had Batman missing in action, and the Joker suffering the adverse effects of psychotropic drugs. Then along came James Holmes to the premiere of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora.
Most drugs that can cause suicide, including the antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, antipsychotics, smoking cessation drugs and others, can also cause violence. The akathisia, psychotic decompensation, or emotional disinhibition these drugs trigger that lead some to suicide, lead others to violence (see Healy et al 2006 ).
A medical blind-spot