For the past twenty-four years I’ve worked in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards as a registered nurse. As far as I’m concerned, much of my nursing career has been a twenty-four year long research project. I continue to be saddened by what I see when it comes to addiction. After reviewing hundreds and thousands of charts over the years, talking with probably thousands of patients, I have come to believe that big pharm companies are driving the healthcare bus. The amount of medication that most people take who come to the hospital is staggering. Medication lists that include Seroquel, Depakote, Effexor, Melatonin, Remeron and Ativan—all for one person! C’mon, there is no way anyone is going to feel okay taking that sort of medication cocktail every day.
Substance Abuse or Mental Illness?
The other disturbing factor is the number of people with underlying substance about issues who are turfed to the psych ward and deemed mentally ill: these are people who have jobs, or maybe they just got fired from a job and now they’ve been up for three days on a methamphetamine binge and land in the emergency department (ED) because their behavior is out of control: They see and hear things that aren’t there; they exhibit erratic behavior; they were in a scuffle; someone called the police because some guy or gal was undressing in the Dollar General Store—you get the picture.
The psychiatrist sees the patient for a few minutes and decides, yup, they’re bipolar or maybe even schizophrenic. The person is now labeled for the rest of their life. Looks like disability checks are in their future. After all, it’s documented in their chart. How will they ever find a great job again? The person is prescribed a toxic medication regimen; one that is hard on the liver and other organs. The person feels awful: drugged, lethargic, but after a few days, the voices and the hallucinations have ceased. The doctors smile. See, the medication is working. They’re cured.The doctors then have a therapist get to work to connect the person with an outpatient mental health facility for follow-up. The person leaves the hospital and within the hour they start using meth, heroin, or whatever drug it is that they can get their hands on. Life feels hopeless. They don’t follow up on any of their aftercare appointments. Next month, the whole cycle repeats itself.
Over and over again we do the dance—and we call this healthcare?
From where I sit, it feels like the shameful waste of a person’s life. Why isn’t the underlying substance abuse ever addressed? How can any doctor make an accurate diagnosis about a person’s mental health when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol? They can’t, but they do it anyway. That same scenario happened to my mother back in the 60’s and 70’s. She was addicted to alcohol and Valium. It made her irrational. She hallucinated. She passed out. She wrecked cars. Some doctor prescribed Lithium and Thorazine. She never got better and there were four kids on the back side of her addiction. We all suffered until she found recovery.
Big Bad Pharmacology Companies Want Your Money. Period.
Big pharm sponsors much of the drug studies, and everyone knows statistics can be manipulated to say wherever the study wants it to say. Big pharm has indoctrinated medical students and doctors to believe that there’s a pill for everything. Nowadays, so many people are medicated, and most people find this acceptable. The truth is though that the only people benefiting from this broken system are the drug companies.
Why do we accept that a pill for everything? Is it because it’s easier for a doctor to prescribe something and get the person out of their face? Is it because people are lazy too and don’t want to make the necessary lifestyle changes that are needed to change their life? There are no easy answers, but it benefits everyone to understand how the system works. Next.
There is a big difference between someone who is legitimately mentally ill, and someone with substance abuse issues. I don’t believe that you have to be a doctor to understand that drugs and alcohol do strange things to people and a lasting diagnosis should not and cannot be made with any accuracy until a person is clean of all mind-altering substances for at least three months. It’s impossible to get an accurate baseline of what a person is like while they’re under the influence.
The damage done to a person’s life cannot be underestimated. I’ve seen many people cycle through the system over and over and they are not getting well, and they will never get well until they stop the medication, get sober, and then determine if there are underlying mental health problems. Common sense tells us this, but the big pharmacology companies have everyone, including too many doctors, believing otherwise.