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Drug-induced apathy:

Christine Sheehan writes about her personal experience

Typical anti-psychotic drugs such as Depixol cause a number of awful side-effects, including apathy. It is often said by psychiatrists that apathy is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia (or schizo-affective disorder); I do not know if this is true or not but, in my case, Depixol turned me into a zombie. I lacked feelings: the ability to love, feel anger, joy or grief. I had no interest in life and could not care if I lived or died. I could no longer empathize with others, and could not respond to my parents' suffering in their last years. Time after time my brother asked the psychiatrist if there was a drug to give me an interest in life. His reply was that no drug would be any different from Depixol, as it was my illness and not the drug causing my apathy.

I started to drink 8 pints of beer a day, to experience some feeling, even if it was depression. This caused my family anguish and worry. But I couldn't even get drunk properly. Eventually my CPN helped me to come off Depixol. When I got down to a very low dosage, my feelings came flooding back. I felt human again and saw beauty all around me and in the faces of people. But inevitably I eventually went psychotic and a new psychiatrist put me on Risperidone. I was in despair at the thought of again turning into a zombie, but in fact it never happened. This atypical anti-psychotic drug kept me sane while at the same time allowing me to keep my feelings. However, I put on 3 stone.

So I was put on Seroquel (Quetiapine) which allowed me to reduce my weight very quickly by 1 stone. I am still overweight but who cares? Seroquel is even better than Risperidone. I was always happy on Risperidone but Seroquel allows me to be depressed or happy, depending on events. I feel human once more.

I wish to underline the fact that typical drugs such as Depixol can make us apathetic and take away our humanity. It is not the illness; it is the drug. I lost many years through that awful drug.

I have since read in the newspapers and heard on the radio that the more expensive atypical drugs, such as Risperidone and Seroquel, are not being prescribed by many psychiatrists because the health authorities cannot afford the cost. But I must ask, what price can we put on our humanity?