Yesterday saw my regular prescription check-up with the GP. Having now come to the end of my counselling and having thought long and hard, both on my own and together with MrsAB, I’ve taken the next positive step in starting to come off the anti-depressants. Now, I have tried this before but as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the time I think I was making too large a leap far too soon. This time I feel I am in a much better place mentally and physically. As I’ve previously said, the counselling has provided me with the skills and tools that I need to get through the ups and downs life invariably throws at us. So its time to throw away the crutch.
That’s almost an aside though from the real story I wanted to share, one which follows on neatly from last week’s series of posts about the eagerness of the medical profession to prescribe solutions via a pill. Yesterday I went to see the GP for his professional and scientific advice about the best way to reduce and stop the dosage of anti-depressant I am on. I have been taking an SSRI called Citalopram and I am all too aware that you cannot just stop taking the pills. Instead it is recommended that you taper the dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Not only did the GP, my sister in law (a former mental health social worker) and my cycling buddy (a medical writer who worked on developing Citalopram) all tell me this but my previous experiences of trying to come off it have shown that you can withdraw too quickly and spike when taking the next dose. This latter experience though highlights another problem: how do you reduce the dosage and still feel good?
As I said, I sought professional, scientific advice from the GP about how best to do this. I was expecting a definitive answer. Actually, I wasn’t expecting a definitive answer as each time I’ve asked a different GP I’ve received a different answer. At least yesterday the GP told me that there is insufficient advice about how to do this. It would appear the instruction manuals only go up to prescribing the stuff. Conspiracy theorists might want to suggest that this is evidence of the drug companies locking themselves into a lucrative profit cycle. I’m not really bought by that. What concerns me more is that having been too ready to prescribe medication, the medical profession themselves are running blind during the treatment. Surely this is wrong. Surely a profession based on science should have a basis in hard, scientific evidence. Surely if you are to prescribe a form of treatment you want to understand the odds of it working and ultimately what the outcome for the patient should be.
Instead it seems that we have placed our trust and faith in a little white pill. As the pressures of modern life continue to build the answer seems to be to mask the real causes and try and carry on as normal. To break that cycle takes guts on the part of the patient and shows up the medical profession for its blind faith. If anti-depressants are part of the solution then we really need to understand the full course of treatment from prescription to end, patients and doctors need to be fully informed about the true extent of the course of action.
So I’ve taken another step. I’ve now reduced my dosage and we’ll see how it goes.