"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Monday, March 12, 2012

Medical Monday ..... "This is what takes us down. This is our extinction event."

I have to admit - my only experience with schizophrenia comes from watching episodes of "Law & Order." I have been very fortunate that this disease has not permeated its way into my family or my home. We have also not had to deal with Bipolar Disorder or any other serious mental illness.
My original idea for today's blog was to briefly research some mental health issues, the treatments and medications because of last night's episode of The Walking Dead. I know, sounds really weird but bear with me.

 The underlying idea behind the show is the zombie apocalypse. With me so far?
For the 1st season the indication was that in order to become a zombie, you needed to get bitten or scratched by a zombie .... still following me?
The last two episodes indicate that this may not be the case ..... 4 people have died and become zombies without being either bitten or scratched .... and this is where things stand.

In season I, our illustrious crew had visited the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia to try and find out what was causing all of our dead to begin walking and feeding on us .... they found no answers "It could be microbial, viral, parasitic, fungal {or the wrath of God?} There is that." 

And yet you are probably still wondering what in my brain has connected this somehow to mental illness. Well it didn't, not exactly. I started thinking about the move to pharmacology in the treatment of mental illness. Which as always leads me to think about the dangers of modern medicine: are the cures worth treating the disease? It made me think about pharmacology in relation to mental health because I had just heard a report about a Tony Award Winning Play "Next to Normal." which deals precisely with this issue.

I want to make it very clear that I am in no way saying that I think people with mental illness in anyway resemble zombies from horror movies. My question is, what kind of damage do we do to our bodies by trying to find cures for everything .... including our mood.

 The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following as treatments for Schizophrenia:

I began to start looking up side effects and came up with things similar to this (which are the listed side effects of Aripiprazole):
Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); abnormal thinking; chest pain; confusion; fainting; fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, sore throat; increased sweating; involuntary movements of the tongue, face, mouth, jaw, arms, legs, or back (eg, chewing movements, puckering of mouth, puffing of cheeks); loss of control over urination; loss of coordination; muscle tremor, jerking, or stiffness; new or worsening mental or mood problems (eg, anxiety, depression, agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, inability to sit still); one-sided weakness; seizures; severe or persistent restlessness; shortness of breath; suicidal thoughts or attempts; swelling of the hands, ankles, or feet; symptoms of high blood sugar (eg, increased thirst, urination, or appetite; unusual weakness); trouble swallowing; trouble walking; unusual bruising; unusual tiredness or weakness; vision or speech changes.
And I have to wonder what medications like this are doing to us as a whole. How many people are misdiagnosed and take medications they do not need? How many people take medications the wrong way? How many people don't tell their doctor about the side effects they experience? How much does this alter our natural course of evolution?

That last question is really the one that gets to me. By finding treatments for everything under the sun, from lupus to cancer to heart disease to thin eye lashes to erectile dysfunction ..... are we creating a situation where natural selection can no longer occur? Are we creating a race that can't defend itself against disease because we have medications that do it for us? And what happens if we can no longer have access to those medication? I know it sounds cruel and mean and heartless - but are there things we are not supposed to cure? Are there diseases and birth defects and disorders that we are supposed to just let be so that our species can create defenses for them naturally - either through natural selection or adaptation?

Are we creating our own extinction event?

For this blog I seem to have more questions than answers, because for this one I am asking the big questions. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. I pondered these questions all the way to work and when my computer finally turned on and I clicked on the Internet to check my calender and e-mail my newsfeed had this headline glaring at me: 10 Overhyped Health Products. According to US News & World Report, these things include: antibacterial soap, toothbrush sanitizers and multivitamins. All things that have been heavily marketed as absolutely necessary (I have always been against antibacterial anything - we need to get sick every once and awhile in order to build our immune system). This of course led to another article about herbal medicine: 4 Herbal Supplements Your Doctor Hates (needless to say I did not get a lunch break because I took it when I got to the office and read all this stuff).

None of these articles got rid of my morbid fascination that we are creating a race of humans that can't adapt.
None of this research made me feel any better about the treatments we use for mental illness.
None of my pondering convinced me that a zombie apocalypse is completely impossible (improbable yes - completely impossible I'm not so sure).
None of this ultimately made me feel any better.

I think good television is when it makes you stop and think. Makes you want to go out and learn something new. Creates conversations people would not otherwise have. Makes you look in the mirror and say what kind of person would I be. I think "The Walking Dead" can do all these things (once people get past the fact that it is about zombies). It reminds me of "Lord of the Flies" in a way ..... but I think that is a topic for Literature Tuesday.

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