Crazy Treatments

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by Ben Huot

November 8, 2021

person in corn maze

If you read much about Schizophrenia you will quickly realize a few things. One is that there is very little data to work with which is why even the official treatments and understanding of what Schizophrenia is change frequently. The second is that the ideas on treatment vary widely even currently, especially outside the mainstream medical community. The third is there is very poor understanding of the brain and so much of what they do understand comes from studies done in the last literally few years.

When it comes to trying to learn about Schizophrenia, people cannot even agree that it is a disability. Anyone living with it and able to bring back their mind to any kind of useful state will find that Schizophrenia does not give you special powers or insights. Having Schizophrenia does not mean you are necessarily a genius or really creative. Even if we made major changes in society to make the world more compatible and hospitable to Schizophrenia we would just create an anarchy and the mentally ill would be treated no better or maybe worse.

If you remember one thing about Schizophrenia is that it is disabling. This means it is harder to live with Schizophrenia by a long shot. Most of the social parts of your brain do not work or do not work properly. You are constantly in fight or flight mode. You trust no one. Many people with Schizophrenia are more religious than most people today because society has grown to repress religion in general and specific aspects of it like the supernatural.

You cannot expect a person with Schizophrenia to be able to use their mind usefully any more than you can expect someone without legs to be able to use them usefully. Many physical disabilities can be remediated by using newer forms of technology, but this is not true for Schizophrenia unless they literally do brain transplants. You then will likely be a different person.

All they can do now is sedate you enough to kill the voices and paranoia to the degree that you can function with them. Being on a sedative slows does your entire body too, not just your mind. This causes many other problems as well like rapid weight gain.

I don’t mean to imply you cannot have a positive life with Schizophrenia, but it takes a lot of support for most people. It is also a major illness in that it is quite painfully and physically as well. It also causes major depression as it is hard to deal with day in and day out.

There is much room for improvement in both medication and secondary treatments. One of the ideas gaining prominence in mainstream medicine is that of Buddhist meditation. The problem with this is that if you can control your mind enough to meditate it is likely not relaxing or you cannot do it correctly or at all.

Mediation is very difficult for anyone. Most people who became monks traditionally and practiced Buddhism in this way across major schools would spend their whole lives on this. I seriously doubt they would take people with Schizophrenia at that time in history especially if they ever worked with someone with this condition. Buddha himself had no major psychological problems.

In fact people with Schizophrenia typically died of starvation after being in a psychotic episode for a few weeks, because they stopped eating. This happened until the 1950s when they realized that sedatives could be effective in treating Schizophrenia. Vicktor Frankl, the famous existential psychologist, was the first or one of the first to try this.

There is a lot of crossover between psychology and Buddhism and some ideas could be helpful. I think breathing exercises by themselves could be very useful, but I think it is unreasonable to expect people who have lost the rational part of their brain to meditate. The concepts themselves are very subtle. If most people with Schizophrenia have trouble keeping a schedule, getting proper sleep, and working a basic job having them learn mediation is like sending them back to basic training.

Another extremely scary type of treatment being discussed is taking once illegal drugs. The way people describe how this works sounds exactly like getting high and the way addiction works. This is not a treatment but just an abuse of drugs. The problem with once illegal drugs is that they have no legitimate medical or psychological therapeutic uses. If they worked they would just be controlled substances like morphine or oxycodone.

The problem with being high is that it is not sustainable and so people go on to more extreme drugs to get a bigger high. When they stop they get extreme depression. You cannot maintain a high as the brain has to balance itself back out again.

The other thing about addiction is that it is directly chemical driven and goes around the rational part of the brain. People with Schizophrenia do not want to operate purely on emotion. That is what we are trying to change as the goal of treatment.

One of the big problems we are running into is people specialize too much in one area. Maybe to understand Schizophrenia better we need to spend more time around people with the disease and to have a greater emphasis on studying across academic disciplines. One of the big problems is funding and our insistence on making everything perfect and no one dying. HIV gets many times more funding than mental illnesses do. Also there is little money in making medicine for Schizophrenia.

Because the drug Risperdal caused some people to get tender breasts, the government punished the drug company. I was on the drug when I was first diagnosed and it was very effective. The drug actually had less side effects than other comparable drugs as this one was one of the newer ones, at the time. The antipsychotics cause many more serious problems than tender breasts (which they warned me about too before taking it) like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.