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Dr. Strangedrug (or How I Learned to Spot Medication Effects)

One problem that keeps coming up like Bugs Bunny emerging from a hole away from Albuquerque, feeling perplexed. It's the problem of depressive and anxiety symptoms being confused with a thinking problem when in actuality it is a problem with medications. Again, a preemptive statement on medications: they are important for many people who actually have a problem related to the reason the medication was FDA approved and that is supported by legitimate evidence.

As with many of my blog posts, a situation happened that led to this writing. Recently, a 65+ year old patient was very concerned that recent lapses in her memory and shifts in cognition were the result of what she believed was the onset of Alzheimer's dementia. Obviously, she was scared. The change came suddenly, between our sessions, which led me to believe it was situational. I tried my best to help her rationalize the evidence of the situation, but I did not ask about medications until later in the session, which I normally do not do so late. Lo' and behold, I discovered she was changed to a statin medication, despite having NO obstructions in her arteries but a higher than normal cholesterol. The onset of her shifts in cognition and memory coincided perfectly with the use of the statin. This led us to explore causation instead of dismissing it as coincidental correlation.

My patient was very happy by the possibility, and she was even happier when her thinking cleared. People assume that psychotherapists only deal with emotional issues through talk therapy, but clinical psychologists explore all possible causes for abrupt or slow changes in emotions and cognition. One area of value lies in our method where we spend much more time with the patient to find the cause of a problem and not simply cover the symptoms with a medication. The employment of a psychotherapist is to explore the reasons for changes in a person's life, and to know a little more about the medications many are haphazardly given and with follow-ups planned three months later. Emotional and psychological issues are not often followed up with the specialist or primary physician (physician's assistant if you live in my area) and the patient will often wait and suffer the effects. A clinical psychologist will help guide you to ask your PA the right questions, and help you avoid the needless use of drugs that will undoubtedly toxify your body eventually.

As with anything, more information and better practices will reduce associated medical problems. Trust your PA, but they will make mistakes, as we all do, but we need to do what we can to avoid mistakes that are permanent. We as a society lack adequate comprehension of the details related to medicines and medical practices that can help us make the most informed decisions. A good, knowledgable mental health practitioner can be a valuable asset. That's all folks.

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