Friday, 1 February 2013

It's time to talk drugs

Largactil - early schizophrenia drug
credit: Wellcome Library, London
Just recently I was passed some detailed and rather complex information about a new drug trial - which reported excellent results. I think it was published by the company which manufactured the drug... my first thought was - I'm well out of my depth here, there are thousands of drugs out there and I know very little at all about any of them. So, being in the field of information, my next thought was... I wonder how much other people know about the drugs prescribed for the treatment of mental health conditions... (I had another very cynical thought about the potential bias of pharmaceutical companies when carrying out drug trials and promoting products... but perhaps I won't go there just yet....)

Well, I have started to discover some really useful resources online. 

The mental health charity Mind has some excellent webpages on drugs. There is an alphabetical list for starters, which you can link to here. Everything from Abilify - aripiprazole to Zyprexa - olanzapine. Mind's "making sense" leaflets cover issues such as informed consent, drug names, and how to find out more information from your GP or pharmacist.

Another really useful site is RxISK. Here you can type in the name of a drug and find out more information than you thought could possibly exist. You can also help others by reporting any side effects you experience if taking psychiatric drugs yourself, find out if the drugs affect your feelings, your sexual response, your behaviour, you hair, skin and nails. Also how the drugs interact with each other. One of the members of the medical & research team on the site is David Healy, Professor of Psychiatry at Cardiff University.

If you are taking more than one prescription drug, or drugs for a long-term condition, you can have a "Medicine use review" at your pharmacy - you can find out more and download a booklet here.

And if you're interested in the history of psychiatric drugs try the Science Museum's "Exploring the history of medicine" series. (Stuffed full of intriguing information, photographs and drawings).

Let us know of your favourite sites about psychiatric drugs, and later we'll do an update and also start a debate about medication and how it impacts on people's lives. (If you want to start reading now there is a really interesting article by Jan Hopkins on page 20 of this Powys Mental Health Alliance magazine.)

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