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The Zombie Syndrome

by Chris Barchard

"Medication doesn't do that. It's your illness", snapped the middle-aged, stout, matronly nurse as I stepped from foot to foot in a paroxysm of restless agitation. I knew from the hollowness in her voice that she was lying.. By that time I was on a cocktail of chlorpromazine and haloperidol that was getting near dangerous limits. It seemed to me that because I was restless (akathisia) I was being given more and more of the things that were causing it and I was starting to get afraid. Overmedication falls into a number of aspects; Firstly, there is simply putting someone on too much, possibly to try and keep them quiet when they fret on the initial dosages. This frequently stems from a fanatical desire by some practitioners to eliminate all the "disease" symptoms irrespective of the other symptoms they are generating. Then there is the problem of being kept on a particular dosage for far too long. This represents negligent complacency. If things are going on tolerably and the "patient" is "under control" a lot of psychiatrists are still unwilling to rock the boat in order to get things any better. This kind of attitude is perhaps less common than it was, but it is still conspicuous. Finally, there is the widespread and continuing use of old-fashioned and cheap drugs either to keep down costs or through an unwillingness to innovate or go for improvements when, from the doctor's point of view, things are acceptable. None of this is acceptable to those receiving the treatment. People should expect the best possible drug regimes in their particular situations as a matter of right. Dangerously high dosing, now known to have no therapeutic advantage, should be made illegal. The government should also act to ensure that cost plays no part in the choice of drugs used. Psychiatrists should be required to undergo training to keep them abreast of developments in treatments. It is, of course, equally important to recognise the importance of nonmedical therapies and not answer every problem with a tablet.