Friday, June 19, 2009

The ties that bind

In search of a new doctor after Chris left the day program and while we continued to look for a psychotherapist, Ian and I approached our family doctor. We figured a general practitioner would be less inclined to make clinical judgments about Chris, would be more open to our desire to eliminate the medication, and would have less difficulty working with Chris's holistic psychiatrist to get him off the medications.

We naively hoped that our family doctor wouldn’t be scared off by the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Our family doctor, without having seen Chris since he became ill, was clearly uncomfortable with taking him on in this new context. We explained that we were working closely with a holistic psychiatrist who was advising on the supplements and that we needed a local doctor to see Chris regularly to observe for himself that Chris wasn’t cracking up and to lower the prescription meds based on the psychiatrist's recommendations. The united approach and a plan failed to convince our family doctor.

Locating a doctor shouldn’t be such a big deal (even Dr. Hoffer writes that a regular GP could handle this), but that’s the position in which people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia find themselves. Psychiatrists, not family doctors, write the prescriptions for the chemical straitjackets that bind the schizophrenic to the care of a psychiatrist. Most family doctors are reluctant to treat psychiatric patients because they have not received much training in mental illness.

One problem with getting off drugs is the drugs. The drugs are very powerful and lowering their dosage can have frightening and dangerous ramifications if not done properly. The only way to reduce the dosage is very slowly, with proper psychological, nutritional, and vitamin support. These days, information on how to get off psychiatric drugs can be found on the Internet, complete with virtual coaching. I consider clinical supervision essential for anyone planning to withdraw from drugs. Unfortunately, a lot of people are essentially clueless and/or reckless and will persist in dropping medication cold turkey, with predictable results. Psychiatric patients can be difficult customers.

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