Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What happens when your medicine stops working?


Katie first spoke with a demon when she was 14. He perched on the edge of her bed, and would persistently urge her to do bad things — like blow up her Arkansas high school.
She spoke to God, too. Her parents, Pentecostal Christians, believed her visions made her special. So she received no therapy, and no medications, and no diagnosis as her schizoaffective disorder began to take root.

Katie, who is now 35, has been homeless and hospitalized several times. She tried “just about every drug there is,” she said, before she found a medication — the anti psychotic risperidone — that works well for her. She’s got a happy and stable life these days, living with her husband in Texas. But she knows it’s tenuous.“The thing is: A lot of times, a drug will work for you for several years, and then it’ll just stop,” said Katie, who asked that only her first name be used to protect her privacy. “At some point, I know I’ll have to find another drug.”

It’s a common, and well justified, fear for people with psychiatric disorders. While scientists have made tremendous advances in decoding the genetics of physical illnesses, such as cancer, and developing precision therapies, treatments for mental health remain blunt tools.

They work by blasting entire mechanisms in the brain, without addressing the specific chemical pathways that have gone awry. As a result, the side effects can be quite substantial — and the efficacy is often low.   Some people develop resistance to a drug years into treatment, and then have to go through a long period of trial and error to find another.

While demand for mental health drugs has surged, big pharmaceutical companies have largely backed away from investing in the field; the number of psycho-pharmacological drug research programs has shrunk 70 percent in the last decade, according to In part, that’s because generic versions of popular drugs like Prozac dominate the market, leaving little incentive for companies to sink tens of millions into developing alternatives.

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But it’s also because the biological causes of mental illness are so complex. There hasn’t been much innovation in psychiatric medications in more than two decades.
To advance the field, researchers say they need to find bio-markers — tangible biological clues that can help diagnose mental illness, just the way high blood glucose levels can signal diabetes. The hope is that those bio-markers could help pinpoint what’s gone wrong in the circuitry of a particular patient’s brain and offer clues for drug development — and, perhaps one day, even precision psychiatric therapies. But that’s far easier said than done.

To read more and see many good links on research and mental illness.
Please go to the link below.