Thursday, October 11, 2012

Better living through chemistry

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought about psychoactive drugs I would tell you that I was against them.  I was quite staunchly against them, perhaps even vehemently opposed.  It's been a while, and further study and the stories on the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast have softened my views a bit.  I still think that psychoactive drugs are being over prescribed to address the common maladies of life which would be better solved by sleep, sun, exercise, diet, and rigorous truth. 

The minor ones, the one's you've probably heard of and seen commercials for, are not the ones I want to talk about now.  I'd like to talk about Thorazine.  Thorazine is an old school tranquilizer and was one of the first psychoactive drugs.  It's invention ushered in the age of chemical solutions to behavioral problems, and it scares the hell out of me.  It scares me because I've seen what people who are on a steady dose of it are like.  They're zombies.  That's the only good word for it.  They shuffle about in a haze, semi-aware, and docile.  I saw Thorazine zombies when I visited the Western State mental hospital.  It disturbed me.

Today though, today I understand.  The person I work with is on the bad end of the autism spectrum, and the job occasionally allows me a lot of time to think about it.  I thought that my views on developmental disabilities would soften as I spent time working with someone who has one, but they haven't.  The client lives a kind of sad life, and spends a lot of time resolving his emotions through violent outbursts and self harm because that's kind of the only way he has to resolve his emotions.  If he was young I'd have a lot more faith, but he's not.  He's in his late 50s.  His cognitive state is only going to decline.  It's only going to get worse from here, and here it sucks.  Today I began to wonder if being put on a steady dose of a tranquilizer might be a good thing. 

It's not my place to make this decision.  I'm there to support him, and I'm going to keep doing that, but I got into this field because this is the kind of thing I think about.  The client doesn't seem happy.  Based on talking to my teammates who have been there longer he isn't really getting any better.  Without a miracle he's never going to get better.  He's in a bad place and it's all downhill from here. Without going into the incredibly morbid discussion of 'Is his life worth living?' I find myself wondering if he would be better off zombified. 

I'm inclined to say yes.  Once again it's not my place to decide this kind of thing, but it seems like a steady haze would be better than hopeless violence. 


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