Dear Dr. Archer,
In the mid 1990's, my doctor referred me to a neurologist who put me on Neurontin 300mg to help with nerve pain on the left side of my head. He felt it was caused by aggravation of the Greater Occipital nerve on that side.
He also said I was subject to getting migraine and cluster headaches, but the pain usually seemed to stem from the agitation of the nerve, which was often brought on when I coughed or sneezed. I was in my early 40's; I am now 57.
This neurologist eventually created a bizarre situation at a local hospital and HE had to be treated over a long period of time. He was forced to stop practicing and had to retire from the medical field. After that, my other doctor was able to prescribe Neurontin 300mg for me.
It began on an 'as needed' basis with his permission. In late 2004, I went through a surprise divorce that really rocked me. I started having a difficult time sleeping.
My doctor put me on Amitryptaline, and it helped me go to sleep quickly, but I'd sleep for only four hours. He next tried Lunesta and then Klonopin 2 mg. all with the same result.
I saw Klonopin was a prescribed off brand for sleep, epilepsy, and an anti-seizure medication. I questioned him about it, but he said it would be alright. He also prescribed Imipramine to help me sleep through the night. I asked about it again and he said I had nothing to worry about.
No testing or evaluation was done ahead of time, which I read should have been done.
No mental health professional was involved in monitoring me while on these meds -- just my doctor at my semi-annual appointments, with no suggestions for me to get off of these any time soon. I told him I wanted to get off the meds in early 2011, but was afraid, due to the sleep situation.
Once, due to his staff person not calling in my prescriptions right away, I was off them for six days, getting no sleep during that time. My job required me to drive many miles every day.
In August I lost my job of more than 13 years, partially due to the economy, and partially due to lesser performance on my part, according to my superiors. I had to fight to get unemployment compensation, and got a lump-sum payment of a little over $8,000 in April of 2011.
In May and many months ensuing, I was caught up in a telephone scam, through which I sent all my money -- in my checking, savings, 401K plan, and I could not keep up with my bills.
This was totally out of character for me. I have always been very good with my financial affairs, with excellent credit and a good enjoyment of life. This job, at the end, paid me around $34,000 per year. Not great, but pretty good for the area in which I live.
I am now in foreclosure on my home, owe about $10,000 in Federal and State taxes, primarily due to no taxes coming out of my unemployment, and liquidating all of my 401K to send money to the scammers.
I am being hounded by debt collectors, just ran out of unemployment and have less than $1,000 to my name.
I have been off my meds since October of 2011 due to the costs. I started looking into the medications and found out they were psychotropic meds that have a great effect on cognitive abilities, behavior and actions.
I immediately realized it was quite possible that they could have led me to do these things which were so divergent from my normal behavior.
I began staying in the house unless I had a reason to go out. Two weeks ago my brother took me to a hospital because I was afraid to be home alone with thoughts of taking my life.
I told them I was on these meds for more than six years, and they were stunned. They said I should have been off of them within 2 years, especially since the Klonopin was only for a single episode.
They put me on only Remeron 15mg, and I slept very well. I would have been fine being on Remeron, but I trusted what my doctor was doing. I told hospital staff I had filed a claim for negligent treatment to the Ohio Medical Review Board prior to admitting myself. They felt that I made a prudent decision when I took this action.
The Board informed me they're taking the case and will get my records from the doctor, but this could take months or years. I am concerned about what might happen in the time that this could take. They said they would look to see if my case could be moved to an ASAP Status, but I have not heard anything yet.
I realize I needed to learn about these medications myself, but I did question them when they were prescribed, and he never warned me about things that could happen. I felt I was on them for my inability to sleep.
His office provided no information sheets on them, and I did read the information sheet that the pharmacy included. I saw the off-label uses, being as sleep aids, for epilepsy symptoms, and as anti-seizure and convulsion medications.
A psychiatrist's assistant heard my story, and told me I had been duped by the scam and the fault was on me. He said that it could have been a latent behavioral desire that just came to the surface, and that I acted on it, like a desire to gamble or to take high risks. I told him I have never lived like that, and I don't gamble, even with a casino very nearby.
Obviously, my life is destroyed. People know what I did, and know that I did it to myself, like an idiot. I keep saying it's not the real me, that I would never do that, and they just state, "Well, you did!" Now I feel lonelier than ever, and I see no hope for me anytime soon.
Would you please shed some light on this, if you can? I understand that a subconscious behavior could be possible, but being something totally out of character doesn't make sense to me. I think my doctor has a great responsibility and liability, too. No one thinks I stand a chance in fighting this.
I have never been to a psychiatrist, so I don't know if I have an existing illness or syndrome. I do have some minor quirks. I'm a perfectionist who does not normally act quickly. I'm orderly and tidy, with things organized just as I want them.
I have extreme emotions from outrageous hilarity and laughter to terrible bouts of sadness and cry easily, even over wonderful things that move me emotionally. They have not been consistently-occurring mood swings.
I have never been diagnosed, but I suppose that there could be something in my makeup that would be perceived as being out of norm, or that I could be OCD or even bipolar. It was never discussed. I see via websites that psychotropic medications can cause strange behaviors and mania. I don't know what to say or think.
Sorry I wrote so much, and thank you for taking the time to read this, and try to comprehend what may have happened. I hope to hear from you.
I try to stay positive but I find it difficult to keep moving forward when everyone shies away from my situation. No one will talk it through with me, and my financial situation continues to get worse as each day goes by.
Again, I am not truly suicidal, nor do I even want to consider such an action, but I need some type of remedy quickly. My doctor is unaware of this as I have not been in contact with him. I don't desire to go back to him, as this could be a very awkward situation.
I skipped my January appointment, and his office has not called. I don't know if the Board of Review requested a copy of my records yet. I need a doctor, but don't know what to do. Should I contact him, or even go back to him at this point? Help!
You definitely need to see another doctor, but you need to see a psychiatrist. As far as whether the meds are responsible, I doubt it.
My advice: The biggest problem regarding your case is that these things can take years to resolve. Also, I'm not sure this is a malpractice case. I suggest you let the medical board do their thing, and in the meantime start working on getting your life back to normal.
The longer you focus on the past, the less effort you have to focus on the future. Priority #1:You need to return to the workforce, so get a job -- any job asap.
Get some money coming in so you have some semblance of control in your life. You're too occupied right now looking back. You did what you needed to do in reporting this, so now you need to move on while they address the issue.
As long as you play the victim, Barry, you're going to be stuck. See a psychiatrist, get a diagnosis and see if anything turns up. Then make it a priority to move forward.
You might be surprised at how well things go from there. Good luck.