6/24/2006 Side Effects

Side Effects

The following are the known side effects of one of my medications, Thorazine:


“Drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision, tiredness, nausea, constipation, and trouble sleeping may occur. You may also be more sensitive to sunburn and less able to tolerate heat/strenuous exercise (see Precautions section). If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.


“Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication for longer time periods may develop serious side effects, but with frequent visits to your doctor, this risk can be minimized.


“Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: feelings of restlessness/agitation/jitteriness, mask-like facial expression, shuffling walk, drooling, uncontrolled shaking of the hands, twitching in the face, muscle spasm/weakness, trouble swallowing, uncontrollable movements of the mouth/face/hands, unusual mental/mood changes (e.g., depression, worsening of psychosis), unusual dreams, trouble urinating, severe constipation, severe stomach/abdominal pain, unexplained weight gain, swelling of the feet/ankles, nipple discharge, swollen/tender breasts, changes in menstrual flow, decreased sexual ability, fast/pounding heartbeat with headache, severe dizziness, butterfly-shaped facial rash, joint/muscle pain, confusion, darkening of skin color, vision changes, fainting.


“For males, in the very unlikely event you have a painful, prolonged erection (lasting more than 4 hours), stop using this drug and seek immediate medical attention or permanent problems could occur.


“Tell your doctor immediately if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: fever with persistent sore throat/cough/chills, yellowing of the eyes/skin, dark urine, severe stomach/abdominal pain, unusual bleeding/bruising, chest pain, seizures, confusion, rigid/unresponsive state, severe tiredness, breathing problems, pale skin.


“This drug may infrequently cause a serious (sometimes fatal) nervous system problem (neuroleptic malignant syndrome). Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following rare but very serious side effects: fever, rigid muscles, increased sweating, fast heartbeat, mental/mood changes, change in the amount of urine.


“A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing.


“If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.”


Thus sayeth www.webmd.com. 


I have taken Thorazine since I was 25 years old, on and off.  It was the first drug invented that was effective in treating psychosis.  The newer “atypical” antipsychotics are more commonly prescribed nowadays, but they are expensive and have their own side effects.


One shrink of mine told me to think of Thorazine as my friend.  Does that sound ridiculous?  I don’t think so.  Thorazine works.  It has been a more faithful friend to me than most humans have been.


You may ask why I have chosen, or, rather, ended up with a friend who comes with so much baggage.


If you consider the side effects of mental illness, you may find the answer.  Imagine losing all your friends, the support of family, your self-respect and the respect of others.  One of the worst side effects of mental illness is discrimination, in its many forms. 


All these are side effects of mental illness.  This list doesn’t include the symptoms of mental illnesses, severe problems that I would be living with if it weren’t for Thorazine and the other medications I take.


Imagine losing your home, your rights, your job and any future job prospects, your education, your freedom, your life.


No wonder I take those little orange pills.