Psychiatric Drugs That Impair Memory

I scored a copy of Martha Stewart’s book Living the Good Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others for fifty cents at Salvation Army last month and I just sat down to read it. Part 1 features a section on brain health and there’s a big list of medications that have been shown to affect memory. There are over 15 classes of drugs listed, from analgesics (pain killers) to steroids. I would like to share the relevant psychiatric drugs here in the name of informed consent.

Antianxiety Drugs

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam (Serax)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)

Antidepressant Drugs

  • amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • imipramine (Tofranil)

Antipsychotic Drugs

  • chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • thioridazine (Mellaril)

Hormones

  • levothyroxine sodium (Synthroid)

Seizure Drugs

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • valporic acid (Depakote)

Sleep Drugs

  • zolpidem (Ambien)

I have personally taken a number of these drugs as well as several of the antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, anti-nausea drugs, steroids, pain drugs, and hormones and I am certain that long-term use of the psychiatric drugs has caused memory problems. I did not have memory issues until college, which is when my prescriber put me on a bunch of different psych meds. I am 34 years old now and I have significant memory issues. What about you? Have psychiatric drugs impaired your memory? Did you know about this side effect before you agreed to take the drug? How does this make you feel? I am mad (to say the least). I intend to research when it was determined that each of the drugs that I took caused memory problems and, if I was not properly warned before taking the drug, file claims against the makers of the drugs.

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GeneSight Test: Part 2 (Procedure)

Welcome to part 2 in my GeneSight series! If you missed part 1, click here to read it really quick before proceeding. Part 1 gives an overview of what the test is, why it is used, why I had it done, and a list of other tests available from this specific company.

After my Nurse Practitioner and I decided that I would get tested, a Medical Assistant walked me you through the DNA sample collection process. The process that I experienced:

  1. I signed a form authorizing Assurex Health, Inc. to bill my medical insurance for the tests. I was told that the GeneSight Financial Assistance Program is available to help make GeneSight affordable for those who qualify. My provider told me that the test is expensive (several thousand dollars), but Assurex is very good at getting insurance companies to pay, and individuals usually end up paying no more than $300 out-of-pocket. I was told that I will receive a bill if my insurance doesn’t cover everything, at which time I can appeal and/or apply for assistance.
  2. The Medical Assistant gathered the testing supplies and I completed two short identical forms (one for each test) that were submitted with my samples. I was told that my samples and results would be kept confidential and comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) that ensure the security of personal and genetic information.
  3. I was given two large cotton swabs and asked to rub them inside my cheek until they were soaked with spit. This was quick and painless. She had me drop the swabs into a plastic pouch, which she sealed and packaged for shipment.
  4. That’s it! The office mailed my samples (pre-paid FedEx) to Assurex. I was told that my results would be available to my healthcare provider within 36 hours after the lab received my samples, and that I would receive a copy of the results from my healthcare provider. I received a copy of my report in the mail just under 2 weeks after submitting my spit/cells. I have an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner in April to discuss the report.

Check back soon for part 3: the results!

 

GeneSight Test: Part 1

Earlier this month, my Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner suggested that I submit DNA samples for GeneSight Psychotropic and GeneSight MTHFR combinatorial pharmacogenomic testing. What does that mean? Why would I want to do that? I’m glad that you asked! If you didn’t ask those questions in your head, feel free to move along.

According to their website,

“The GeneSight test analyzes a patient’s genes and gives healthcare providers information to help them select the medicine(s) that are more likely to work for an individual patient. GeneSight provides answers that can lead to a personalized treatment plan and faster response and remission for patients.”

They currently offer 4 tests:

  • GeneSight Psychotropic (for mood-altering prescription drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other behavioral health conditions)
  • GeneSight Analgesic (for prescription painkillers)
  • GeneSight ADHD (for prescription attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs)
  • GeneSight MTHFR (tests how well your body can convert folic acid into its active form)

 

I decided to get tested because I have been struggling for over 16 years with finding medications that work well for me and don’t have intolerable side effects.

I have already typed out a really long blog post about my experience having the test done and my results and then I decided to break it up into manageable sections. Because who wants to stay up all night reading this? Probably not you. So, stay tuned for parts 2, 3, and maybe 4! And for now, get some sleep. Monday is going to come too early.

Falling Through the Cracks

It is so easy to fall through the cracks of the mental health system! It infuriates me. I can ramble on for hours about all of the times that I have personally felt as though I was forgotten. Today, I will share one example.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I was pretty depressed for a significant amount of time recently. I made and attended an appointment with my psych med prescriber, a Nurse Practitioner who specializes in psychiatric medicine. I have seen him for about three years and we have a decent doctor-patient relationship, but I think that he is heavily influenced by big pharma, as many prescribers are. He tolerates my strong will and we compromise on my treatment plan, but I want to explore other options besides drugs because I have tried *so many* without success, or with side effects that aren’t tolerable. I have mentioned to him several times that I would like to see a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Psych Department, but he always seems to change the subject and hasn’t made the referral. At this particular appointment, he brought up the GeneSight test, which I will blog about very soon, and successfully derailed the conversation. After my appointment, I realized that the referral wasn’t addressed. Again. I ended up at my Primary Care Provider’s office a few days later because I wasn’t feeling well and I mentioned that I would like to have a referral to U of M and she sent an urgent referral right then.

I ended up at my Primary Care Provider’s office a few days later because I wasn’t feeling well and I mentioned that I would like to have a referral to U of M and she sent an urgent referral right then. I really like my PCP. She takes care of business. She told me to call U of M if I hadn’t heard from them in 2 days. It has been 3 days, so I just called. My PCP’s office gave me the wrong number, so I ended up calling U of M’s Psych Emergency Department on accident, but they gave me the correct number. I’m lucky that I am functioning well right now because I have a strong aversion to making phone calls, and under circumstances in which I am very stressed or depressed, I avoid doing it altogether. Anyway, I called and they told me, without asking for any information regarding my urgent referral, that they “are full until June,” and that they are suggesting that people call back in mid-May to schedule for July. WHAT THE FUCK?! Sounds like they weren’t going to call me to let me know this, so it’s good that I called, but now I have to put this on my calendar for mid-May, hope that I am functioning enough to do it myself, and deal with scheduling an appointment at one of the busiest months of my year.  I’ll put it on my to-do list.

All of this runaround is difficult to manage on my own. I am lucky that I have an awesome PCP and a good support group. What challenges have you faced in getting mental health treatment or support? How did you overcome them?