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.

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?