Medication side effects… or not… or are they?

I am not a doctor. But I have tremendous experience with taking medication and with working with my clients to help them understand how their meds are working… or not working. What I have found is that individuals often experience effects or side effects that are not listed in the literature. Some doctors poho-pooh these unreported side effects. But, my experience has been that, unless you are a legit hypochondriac, you’re probably right if you think you’re having a specific effect. And, over time, it’s pretty easy to figure out if it is related to the meds. But sometimes it’s hard to tell until you change dosages, take the med for a period of time, or go change. It’s also tough if you are a person who is not particularly attuned to you how your body works on a daily basis. 

I’m lucky that I’ve got a pretty good level of self awareness. Always have. It was a real benefit when I was first trying meds at age 10. And, it continues to be as I continue to manage my brain chemistry with my amazing doctor. I’m going to use my current antidepressant as an example. It is called Trintellix (Vortioxetine.) It’s a pretty new drug. As far as I know it is in it’s own category. It is not a trycyclic, SSRI, or SNRI. The following the latest chapter in my antidepressant journey. 

My most recent depressive episode began about 3 1/2 years ago. It was my third and I caught it quickly. I had had success with Zoloft (Sertraline) in the past. But this time it actually made me worse. That is strange thing number one. Just because something worked once, doesn’t mean it will now. My doctor wanted to go right to Trintellix after that, but the insurance company made me try Wellbutrin (Bupropion) first. I took that for three days and it made my depression go away, but made my anxiety so bad that it felt like the walls were closing in. Apparently not a particularly out there side effect. 

So, then it was on to the Trintellix… which has been an interesting journey. On the whole it is amazing. It deals with my depression and anxiety better than anything else has, with no weight gain or sexual side effects. But it is complicated. It gives me a far better effect if I take it at night. But the more I take at night the harder it is to fall asleep and then my sleep is restless because I have wacky technicolor dreams all night. So, I took it upon myself to split the dose and take some in the morning and some at night. Which requires splitting some of the tiny teardrop shaped pills… which sucks. But it is necessary anyway since I mostly take 12.5 mg. 

So for a few years I had been taking 7.5mg in the am and 5mg in the pm. Then last September I made a mistake when filling my pill containers and accidentally went down to 10 mg. Honestly, I can’t remember how that happened. Before I realized my mistake, here’s what happened. I woke up one day and felt like I got hit by a truck. If you’ve every had a flu that give you really bad muscle pain, it was like that, but I wasn’t sick and it wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t sleep, or work out. Nightmare. I went to my amazing chiropractor, paid for an hour long massage at my gym, took a hard-core anti-inflammatory that I had left over from a previous injury, iced, stretched, took plenty of Ativan (Lorazepam….) and nothing made it better. When I realized what had happened with the pills, I corrected it, and was fine with in three days. 

I have also noticed over the years, that I have more heat sensitivity, that my vision is intermittently blurry when I change doses, I run really hot – especially at night, and I have a lot more heart burn. But I also have more energy, less pain, and usually eat better. Side effects of the med or of not being depressed and anxious? Debatable. But Trintellix doesn’t list most of this stuff in the medication pamphlet. (Trintellix)
My point is that the information that is available in terms of recognized side effects is very, very important. But I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think it is a comprehensive list. So, trust your body. I mean, approach it scientifically, but if you think there is something going on… there just might be.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

Leave a Reply