Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 10, 2007
Schizophrenics fight an ongoing battle with medication
Too often their disease causes them to see pills as poison, not a lifeline
By AUSTIN MARDON
When your brain is broken, it can be hard to even understand that you are ill and need to take medication.
For those with severe mental illnesses, the battle to take medication properly isn't just a matter of education. When your brain is broken, it can be hard to even understand that you are ill and need to take medication.
The disease itself can sometimes tell you that not only aren't you sick, but the medication the doctor is trying to force on you is poisonous.
It's not just lack of insight into the illness, there's also the stigma involved. Years ago, people were afraid to admit they had epilepsy because of the stigma and fear it evoked. Some of my peers refuse to take their medication because they can't admit to themselves they have such a horrible disease.
It is easier to live with the psychosis than the stigma.
Repeatedly going on and off the medication can cause additional harm to a brain already under extreme stress.
This is why Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) have been proposed. This is a court-ordered treatment plan imposed on someone who has been deemed to not be competent to understand why they are in need of this supervision.
Sometimes we all need help.
In jurisdictions where CTOs have been enacted, 70 per cent of the individuals who have had medical treatment forced on them, after being on the medication long enough to stabilize, are grateful for having been the subject of a CTO.
CTOs, in conjunction with one of the new injectable neuraleptics such as Risperadol Consta, could allow for a patient's doctors and family members to know immediately if a dose has been missed. For many persons with schizophrenia, it is difficult for them to even keep track of what day it is, let alone if they have taken their medicine for the day.
If a diabetic does not monitor their condition carefully and follow their physician's instructions for controlling their blood sugar, they can expect to experience complications that may lead to shortening their lives. In most cases, by properly taking their medication, they can hope to live as long and as healthy as anyone else in our society.
It works the same for schizophrenia medications. If you take them properly, you have the chance to live a healthy, stable life. A schizophrenic may not live a "normal" life by society's standards, but they can certainly live a worthwhile life.
Every few months, there is a story in the news of an elderly person with dementia who has wandered away or become lost. If you saw an elderly person who seemed lost on the street, most of us would stop to help.
Yet how many of us have turned away when that lost person is dishevelled and talking to themselves?
That person is just as lost.
I have been that person and, except for the grace of God and modern pharmaceuticals, I could easily become that person again. I have a responsibility to the God who saved me, the wife who loves me, and the people who care about me, to take my medication as prescribed. Anything less is a sin for me.
The next time you see someone on the street who seems lost, just remember that person might be Christ, waiting to see if we are willing to reach out our hand.
(Austin Mardon has had schizophrenia for the last 16 years and last month was invested with the Order of Canada, and the highest award of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, the Bill Jefferies Family Award - both for his mental health advocacy. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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