April 05, 2013

Better Living Through Chemistry and Diligence

In our house, peace and harmony can be found in 28 little compartments. Objects in pretty pastels and vibrant primary colors cascade inside, and the satisfactory click of each clasp tells me my job is almost done.

Once a week, I gather the container and fill my mind with hope and good thoughts... 

Oh, and drugs - I fill the container with lots of drugs.

The Box of Happiness/Side Effects

When I say 'drugs', I don't mean illicit recreational substances. I'm talking about your standard pharmacy-issue prescription medications. His current drug regimen is 12.5 pills, spread throughout the day.

Several times of day, I am heard saying, "Did you take your ________ (fill in the blank for time of day) meds yet?"

Most of his medication has NOT been approved for use in children under the age of 18...yet I willingly fill the prescriptions for these poisons every month.

Since The Boy's bipolar diagnosis at the age of six, he's been on numerous drug cocktails to keep his mental illness at bay. Some of these same meds are used to treat the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome, so they're doing double duty.

With varying degrees of success, The Boy's gone through a string of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, stimulants and blood pressure medication (that magically works to curb aggression and help him to sleep).

Current prescriptions and pill cutter

Among the no-longer-used drugs:

Tegretol gave him a rash.

He had "Prozac poop out" on him. No, he didn't suffer from explosive diarrhea - "poop out" refers to the loss of drug effectiveness that sometimes happens.

Geodon gave him some pretty serious hand tremors. He shook so bad that he couldn't eat an Icee with the straw/spoon utensil without spilling it all over himself.

A new shrink prescribed a toxic dose of Lithium which caused tremors, necessitating a trip to the emergency room (when his blood levels were twice the therapeutic level), and a visit with toxicologists who said, "Well, he doesn't appear to have brain or liver damage." 

His one month trial with Risperdal resulted in a 17-pound weight gain (and a $250 grocery bill during one Spring break).

In one six month period, 14 medication changes were made to keep The Boy stable. Since he's still a growing lad, the adjustments to dosage and/or trials of new drugs is pretty routine - and often fraught with not-so-routine difficulties.

During inpatient hospitalizations, I've seen him zombified on too much Abilify, and had a nurse call me to say "a shot of Thorazine was easier than dealing with him."

Did you know they make Ativan in a thin sheet that melts on your tongue, and hospital staff are not reticent to dispense it?

Last year, after his wisdom teeth surgery, Oxycodone caused him to have a rapid backslide, complete with physical aggression - and won him a 72-hour hold in a locked hospital ward.

Even after all of these difficulties, I am grateful that, for now, his mix of medications seems to be keeping him on an even keel.

We make regular visits to his psychiatrist, and and in between appointments, I track side effects and keep an eye out for manic or depressive symptoms to rear their ugly heads.

Knock on wood (and laminated wood products), the good spell will continue.


  1. my daughter suffers from migraines and it has been a BATTLE finding anything to help her not only treat the pain when it comes, but to prevent them. We now have a doc that l;istens and cares (powerful combo!!!) The road to her current med regimen for prevention has been a LONG one as well. I feel your pain but am glad to hear for now you have hit on the "good spell" formula. xoxoxo

    1. Migraines are torture - all three of my kids and I have had them - I'm the only one who had to try the meds.

      Knock on wood again, I rarely have one anymore.

  2. Kim--I hope this pill combo works for a good long while. Your son deserves it and so do you.

    I'm bringin' fudge for you. to celebrate your big show (if you like fudge). Nuts or not?

    1. Mmmm, fudge! Thank you, you're sweeter than the sugary confection!

  3. Holy heck. We live in very similar worlds! When I come home from Walgreens, I usually have anywhere from 10-20 pill bottles. I now carry index cards in my wallet to keep track of who is taking what (myself included). Big help when we go to the different docs and they ask "what meds are you taking". Just pull out the card lol

    1. The index card is a great idea! The Boy knows what he takes, so he's my backup information source during doctor visits! His psychiatrist asks HIM, not me, about his meds and side effects, so he has to keep on his toes!

  4. Your son is fortunate to have a mother with the fortitude to fight this battle every day. I'm glad his current regimen is working well; finding the right combination can be no small feat.

    When my father-in-law was alive he took nearly 30 different meds every day. I put the med, dose and x per day on an Excel spreadsheet (easy to update), printed it, and shrunk it down so he could carry it in his wallet. Medical offices everywhere (I took him to 3-4 doc appts. every week) were happy to be able to make a copy for his chart, and replace it when we made updates. Doing this made hospital admissions much easier, too, and helped reduce the chance of error.

  5. My goodness... wishing you well.

  6. Wow … what a difficult task to keep up with and scary too. Here's hoping that the current balance that is working keeps up.


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