What Do Psychiatric Drugs Do to Your Brain?
Like street drugs and any mood or mind altering substance, psychiatric drugs alter mental states and behavior by affecting brain chemistry.
Current medical theory is that most psychiatric drugs work by changing the levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters (anti-convulsants, anti-epileptics, and “mood stabilizers” like lithium appear to work by changing blood flow and electrical activity in the brain in general). Neurotransmitters are linked with mood and mental functioning, and all the cells of the nervous system, including brain cells, use neurotransmitters to communicate with each other. When neurotransmitter levels change, “receptor” cells, which receive and regulate the neurotransmitters, can grow or shrink to adjust, and become more sensitive.
SSRI anti-depressants (“selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors”) for example are said to raise the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin present in the brain and reduce the number of brain serotonin receptors. Anti-psychotic medications like Haldol lower the level of dopamine and increase the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. This action on neurotransmitters and receptors is the same as for many street drugs. Cocaine changes the levels of both serotonin and dopamine, as well as noradrenaline, and alters receptors.
While these chemical changes are taking place, your consciousness works to interpret and respond in your own way, while your body responds in its way as well. Because everyone is different, your experience of medication may not be the same as other people, and will ultimately be uniquely your own. Trust yourself.
Why do People Find Psychiatric Drugs Helpful?
Unlike their risks, the benefits of psychiatric drugs are widely and loudly promoted in the media. The helpful aspects of the drugs, however, tend to be mixed in with inaccurate claims about biological causes and distorted by sensationalistic advertising hype. The information below is an attempt to cut through the confusion and describe the basic ways that many people find psychiatric drugs helpful.
• Sleep deprivation is one of the single biggest causes of, and contributors to, emotional crisis. Short term medication use can get you to sleep.
• Short term medication can interrupt and “put the brakes on” a difficult extreme state of consciousness or an acute moment of crisis. Ongoing use can sometimes prevent episodes of mania or depression, or make them less severe. Some people report that extremes and symptoms feel less severe and more manageable on medications.
• Interrupting crisis and getting some sleep can reduce stress in your body and settle you down, which can allow you to reduce chaos in your life and take care of yourself better with food, relationships, and other basic issues. This can lay a groundwork for greater mental stability and making changes that might not have been possible otherwise.
• Medications can sometimes help you show up for and function at work, school, and in your life, which is especially useful if you cannot change these circumstances. Work may require you to get up in the morning and avoid mood swings, and relationships may need you to avoid emotional reaction or sensitivity.
• All drugs have a powerful placebo effect: just believing they work, even unconsciously, can make them work. Recovery from very serious illnesses is possible just from receiving a placebo sugar pill the patient thinks is real, or undergoing
a “placebo surgery” believed to be real. In clinical trials many psychiatric drugs have little proven effectiveness beyond that of placebo, because of the powerful mental effect at work. The mind plays a central role in any healing, and there is no way to determine whether effectiveness for an individual comes from placebo or drug effects.
• Compliance also contributes to the placebo effect: sometimes people will feel better when they find a clear official explanation of their suffering to believe in, and when they follow and get support from a doctor, family member, or other authority figure.
• Advertising, especially direct-to-consumer television advertising (allowed in the US and New Zealand), is extremely powerful and influences people’s experience to fit their hopes and expectations.
A previous article entitled What are the Alternatives to Using Psychiatric Drugs? provides information... Alternatives, Drink plenty of fresh water ve emotional