There has been much discussion in the bipolar blogging community regarding the pros and cons of different medications in our treatment regimens. We wonder whether our symptoms are caused by our brains…or maybe, and this terrifies me…from the drugs we take to pacify our unruly grey matter.
The debate has largely focused on the role of antipsychotics. Many people find their bipolar symptoms are not controlled by certain drugs: but when they try to discontinue, their symptoms rebound, or they even develop symptoms they didn’t have before, like auditory or other sensory hallucinations, tremors, and so on.
I had been skeptical of the extreme descriptions I’ve been reading, of people literally crippled by psychotic symptoms after even a very slow wean from certain drugs. After all, how could antipsychotics CAUSE psychosis…could it be, thought I, that these people were simply experiencing a resurgence of their own “native” psychosis upon withdrawal of the “anti”?
This study, which focuses on psychosis caused by, or by withdrawing from, certain antiepileptic drugs, has literally changed my mind. I’m now thinking about the way the brain is able to change the way it functions in its environment. We bathe it in a substance; it learns to use and depend upon that substance for everyday function.
Sometimes, in the presence of a substance that is supposed to do one thing, our brain rebels and does something else.
This might explain why a person with temporal lobe epilepsy, as represented in the article, given a certain antiepileptic drug, might go ahead and have sensory hallucinations.
I’m not going to stop taking my lamotrigine (an antiepileptic), because it really does help me feel better. But this article did give me pause, since I also have temporal lobe epilepsy that causes sensory hallucinations.
Jeekers crow, I sure don’t want to have my days and nights haunted by the smell of baked goods burning in the oven, which is my main sensory hallucination. It’s damned hard to sleep when your brain is tugging at you yelling “Get up, asshole, and take those cinnamon buns out of the oven before they’re ruined and the house burns down!” Never mind that I don’t eat baked goods and don’t even have a house, much less an oven. Stupid brain just goes on and on.
Combine that with the constant intrusive music that isn’t there, and the bouts of disabling paranoia…I’ll take my chances with my L&L cocktail (lithium and lamotrigine).
Just not that other stuff, which you will find in the linked article. I encourage you to read it for yourself, and please do comment here! I have some private thoughts, which I’m sure will spill over into the comments somewhere. But I want to hear what all y’all are thinking about these critical issues of what we are putting into our nervous systems.