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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An adverse drug reaction from Seroquel: This was a revelation

A story from Kaitlin Bell Barnett's book, Dosed:  The Medication Generation Grows Up:

This excerpt is about one of the book's main subjects, a fourteen-year-old boy named Paul who has been a ward of the Florida foster care system since being taken from his parents at age five because of abuse and neglect. At the time of this scene Paul has been taking the atypical antipsychotic drug Seroquel for several years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has recently been sent to the hospital with dangerously high blood sugar resulting from untreated diabetes. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with diabetes and told he must inject himself with insulin multiple times a day to keep his disease in check.

     [Paul was] not particularly stoic about the pain. The first time he had to give himself a shot, he nearly passed out - it hurt.  He couldn't do this three times a day for the rest of his life.  From then on, whenever he had to prick himself to check his blood sugar or inject himself with insulin, he felt a wave of sadness and defeat come over him.  So far, he'd been very good at manipulating his circumstances to suit his purposes, but diabetes seemed one thing he couldn't wiggle out of.  His alleged behavioral problems were finally under control, and at the residential psychiatric center at least he'd been able to spit out the Seroquel.  But failure to inject himself, everyone told him, would put his life in danger.  

     At some point, Paul's psychiatrist explained that his diabetes probably resulted from taking Seroquel.  Paul wondered why doctors would prescribe him a drug that caused another illness, but he figured at first that they knew what they were doing.  As he got a little older, he also made a connection between the diabetes and the other side effects of Seroquel that he disliked so much - the dry mouth, the cravings, the woozy, dizzy feeling.  Once when he had either forgotten to take his Seroquel the night before or his foster parents had forgotten to give it to him, he awoke without a dry mouth, and it occurred to him that maybe he could avoid that feeling if he didn't take the pills.  So he went a week without taking them.  He felt better, and saw that his blood sugar readings were more level.  Then, the morning after he'd gone back to taking the drug, he awoke with a dry, fat-feeling tongue and abnormal blood sugar again.  Finally, he understood the connection - and realized that maybe the diabetes was reversible if he stopped taking his medication.  This was a revelation.  As he'd understood it, he'd have to deal with the condition for the rest of his life.

     By the time Paul figured this out, he have moved away from the group home and was living in a different therapeutic foster-care placement, one chosen for him because the father was a nurse and could monitor his condition.  Both parents watched like hawks while Paul took his insulin and his Seroquel, nagged him to go out and get some exercise to lose weight and control his blood sugar, and monitored his whereabouts and his grades.  Later, he would see the discipline they imposed as beneficial, but for the moment he chafed at being stuck adhering to two different medical treatments he intensely disliked, one of which - the Seroquel - seemed to be maddeningly and needlessly causing the other.

     In time, with his diabetes under control, Paul was transferred to a more relaxed foster home where, now aged sixteen or so, he was put in charge of his own medication.   He stopped taking Seroquel altogether, and noticed himself shedding weight.  Eventually, his blood sugar problems disappeared, and his doctor told him he no longer needed insulin.  He felt vindicated.

     Read a story of a similar adverse drug reaction to the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa on this blog.  Thanks to Kaitlin for this excerpt from her book, Dosed:  The Medication Generation Grows Up, and to Bethany Sales of Newman Communications for connecting us.

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