The Ups And Downs Of Bipolar Disorder Treatments

Are the costs of bipolar disorder treatment outweighing the benefits? The current treatment methods involve Lithium drugs for these psychoactive treatments. They have been found to suppress the extreme swings in mood involved in bipolar disorder, and lessen the emotional suffering in patients as well. At the same time, scientists are not even completely sure what is the root cause of bipolar disorder and what is neurologically occurring in the brain. Lithium psychoactives  activate a huge range of pathways in your brain, one of which involves treating bipolar disorder. The long-term deficits of these drugs involve extreme amounts of weight gain in a rapid timeframe, with other effects still being investigated. Do these effects outweigh their treatment benefits?

This week we saw a great deal of discussion on the symptoms of bipolar disorder and what current treatments have to offer. Bipolar disorder is defined as a psychological disorder contrasting between periods of deep depression and manic excitement. While most manic episodes, patients deny having symptoms and experiencing problems, the suffering in depressive episodes is clear and more detrimental. Any treatment of depressive symptoms is typically viewed as a huge improvement and of extreme benefit. Patients experience fewer depressive episodes and they are less severe. This is also true of the manic episodes. Treatments involve therapy and psychoactives in combination or isolation.  Therapy alone does not typically help enough so drugs are used additionally. Psychoactives drugs like Lithium have been fairly effective in treatment of the disorder itself, but scientists still don’t know what it is affecting in the brain, and this is where the trouble in treatments comes along.

The malefic of drug treatment options is disconcerting because, aside from suppressing swings, no one knows what else will go wrong in your brain and cause long-term side effects. The most well understood side effect of psychoactives is weight gain. I looked more specifically into it this week and found that psychoactive drugs activate a histamine receptor in your brain. This activation creates a lot more AMPK than normal, leading to a huge increase in desire to eat. As a result, patients are consuming much more food than normal; weight gain in young patients was as much as 18 pounds in 11 weeks worth of time. This is a shocking amount to consider when you realize that most patients will be on these drugs for the rest of their lives, and they will be gaining weight at these rates for their life. Effects of this weight gain include type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc associated with obesity. Now, the drugs that are supposed to improve your mood and overall quality of life are causing you to eat more than ever before and lead to a much shorter life span due to such huge, no pun intended, weight gains. The current question patients must ask themselves is whether or not they are willing to gain 50 pounds and shorten their life expectancy to lead a normal life, or suffer emotionally while maintaining a normal body weight. The answer is not clear or evident in the least. The tradeoffs of each are significant and raise the question of quantity of life or quality of life. If you were a patient, you must ask yourself, do the effects of treatment outweigh their benefits?

7 Responses

  1. josh

    Wow, you obviously have never interacted extensively with someone with bi-polar disorder. It’s not a choice for most patients. Psychosis is not a livable disease.

  2. esutor

    Every case of bipolar disorder will be different, so every treatment method will be individualized. Ultimately, it will be up to the psychiatrist to determine what treatment methods are most advisable for each patient, but there is a very clear correlation between these prescribed drugs and large weight gain. Psychosis is an outdated umbrella term for mental disorders and is not appropriate in current diagnoses. The issue concerning my own personal interactions with those with bipolar disorder is irrelevant to this blog.

    1. I completely rtlaee to this post. Every saturday I pull out all my bottles and sort them into my pill organizer for the next week. Do I hate being on so much medication? Yep. Do I wonder about the long term effects? Sure do. Do I think they have saved my life? Without a doubt. The treatment that is best is different for everyone of course, but for me working with my dr to find the best combo of meds has allowed me to live a much more functional and fulfilling life and that keeps me filling up those little slots every week.

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