Health

Valium did not cause the Las Vegas shooting

Valium did not cause the Las Vegas shooting

I didn’t plan on blogging about the Las Vegas shooting. I felt just as bad about it as I did when 9/11 happened. As a matter of fact because of my depression I haven’t been able to blog about two school shootings that took place recently. Then I saw something claimed about the shooter, Stephen Paddock, that made my blood boil and I couldn’t remain silent on this.

Some online political rag, who I won’t link to because they don’t deserve the traffic, used the headline of “Stephen Paddock: Another Mass Shooter on Psychiatric Meds”. The rag linked to another article from the Las Vegas Journal Review, which in my opinion was very irresponsibly written. Basically both articles insinuate that since Paddock was prescribed Valium it led to the shooting. The article claims one of Valium’s side-effects is ‘aggressive behavior’. According to the Mayo Clinic, the side-effect should be more properly referred to as ‘outbursts of anger’ and it’s not that common.

Paddock was believed to have taken the drug at prescribed intervals and didn’t abuse the drug. So you’re going to tell me this so-called aggressive behavior caused by Valium, or diazepam if you will, resulted in Paddock inspecting three different possible locations for his rampage, amassing a stockpile of weapons over a number of years and meticulously planning his crime to include cameras outside of his hotel room? I don’t buy it. Not only that, but it’s bad journalism.

The Las Vegas Review shouldn’t even be trusted as a news source since it was taken over by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is rumored to have bought the paper so it would no longer criticize his business practices. Adelson was also a large donor to the Trump campaign so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Adelson, through the paper, is trying to turn the debate away from gun control to prescription drugs.

There are a group of people who are so opposed to antidepressants or any medicine used for the treatment of mental healthcare, they almost always attach it to whatever mass shooting may have just occurred. To my recollection this has been going on since at least Columbine, when it was made a big deal that one of the shooters was prescribed Luvox for depression. Never mind that the other shooter was on no such meds. That’s not even mentioning that these people will blame the drug if the shooter was either on or off of the drug they were prescribed.

The worst part is these people are further stigmatizing mental healthcare, something that doesn’t need any further stigmatization in this country. Not everyone on Valium is a potential mass murderer, they’re more likely trying to stave off a crippling anxiety attack. Furthermore, people on antidepressants are more than likely just trying to function normally in society and not plotting the mass execution of dozens.

James Holmes is no friend to mental illness

James Holmes

James Holmes

After his arrest for the movie theater murders in Aurora, Colorado, a number of James Holmes fangirls showed up on the internet, mostly Tumblr, because…well…it’s Tumblr. Having dealt with a murder groupie or two in my time I wrote about the self-proclaimed ‘Holmies’ here.

With his recent conviction this article from Slate by Amanda Hess revisits with the Holmies to see if their attitude has changed towards their mass-murdering heartthrob. Surprisingly it has but not necessarily for the better. A number of them now see him as some sort of martyr for mental illness in this country. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety on a daily basis let me make it clear that in no way, shape or form should this assclown be used as the poster boy for mental illnesses. To do so would be wrong for a number of different reasons.

First to portray him as some sort of sympathetic figure is akin to excusing him for the brutal murders of 12 innocent people. Secondly, there’s enough of a stigma against mental illnesses already that this would make people think that anyone with even the slightest psychological defect is a potential mass murderer. Lastly and most importantly it would further discourage people suffering from a mental illness from seeking treatment lest they be thought a danger to those around them.

If you want to make anyone the spokesperson for mental illness and treatment make it the person who suffers in silence since no one around them can understand how they’re feeling and who receive advice like “Have you tried not being depressed?” by people who don’t know any better.

Why is Autism the bogeyman of Luddites?

autism

For those of you who may not know what a Luddite is can read up on them here. Its more modern connotation is someone who is anti-science or anti-technology. So in my opinion it’s a fitting term for not only those who wield Autism as a weapon to forward some kind of anti-science agenda but also for those who fear Autism like it’s tantamount to the Black Death.

In the past Autism has been used as a reason why parents shouldn’t vaccinate their kids, which has been debunked by the way. It’s been used as a way to try to get women to not take anti-depressants. It’s been argued that it can be a cause of school shootings. All of those accusations are patently ridiculous but it doesn’t end there. Recently I read an article, from a website I used to think was reliable, that linked circumcision to Autism. The one commonality that these things have in common is that they all have factions that are dogmatically opposed to these practices. In the case of school shootings it’s defense lawyers looking for an easy out.

What makes these factions so effectual are the ignorant masses who are so deathly afraid of their kids getting Autism that they’ll buy just about any snake oil they think will protect them. In this case the old adage is true that people fear what they don’t understand. There are worse things than your kid having Autism, like having them die from a horrible disease that was once thought eradicated.

Autism is not some kind of punishment from God. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong prior to your child’s birth. It doesn’t mean your kid will become a mass murderer. Most importantly it does not mean that your child will be some kind of Hollywood stereotype of an Autistic that just rocks back and forth and screams.

I know several parents who have Autistic children and the majority of them are intelligent and artistic kids who just need a little bit of special attention. I’ve known some that have grown up to be more than productive members of society.

If someone tries to tell you that such and such causes Autism take pity on them for they’re obviously incapable of thinking rationally.

The FDA hates asthmatics

fdalogo

For years if not decades if an asthmatic needed emergency relief they could use the over the counter inhaler Primatene Mist. Four years ago the FDA forced Primatene Mist off the market for the harm its CFC propellant was causing harm the ozone even though by environmentalist standards the actual damage was infinitesimal.

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

Then came along Asthmanefrin. While its atomizer was a piece of junk that constantly broke down it was at least an option of relief for asthmatics. That was until recently. Today I was having asthma issues and went to several pharmacies looking for the EZ Breathe Atomizer. All the stores I went to had the refills but not the atomizer. There wasn’t even a place on the shelves for it.

atomizer

I went to the Asthmanefrin website and all they had listed on there was the box of refills and no atomizer. How is anyone supposed to use the medication without the atomizer? Not to mention that there has been no mention about any kind of any discontinuation or recent recall anywhere.

I went to various asthma related websites and forums and all that anybody knew were vague rumors that the FDA had the atomizer quietly pulled off the market leaving asthmatics with no over the counter relief options. While I can not verify that it does make a lot of sense.

Prescription inhalers are very expensive and the pharmaceutical companies know that they have asthmatics over a barrel. We need to pay their exorbitant prices or else we won’t be able to, you know, breathe. So they can’t have any OTC alternatives, that in my opinion are more effective, cutting into their market share and the pharmaceutical cabal can have a strong lobbying presence influencing policy at the expense of suffering patients.

Meanwhile I’m still having trouble breathing.

The Company That HIPAA forgot

hipaa

As a lot of you know I was unemployed for most of 2014. Back in November I was offered a job in a pharmaceutical call center and I took it. I figured with my experience in the healthcare field this job will be a piece of cake.

When my training class started the company emphasized how important to them HIPAA was. For those of you who may not know HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In a nutshell it’s the federal law that protects your private personal health information. If an individual provider or practice or corporation is caught violating HIPAA guidelines hefty fines and jail sentences can be imposed. In my career I’ve been dealing with HIPAA for a while now and understood the gravity of the position my new employer was taking.

For example we were not allowed to have our cell phones out on the call center floor due to fear of someone using it to steal personal information. That’s understandable. I’ve worked at a couple of companies that had similar policies. Then we were told that we could have no pens or paper on the floor so no one could write any personal information down. Instead we were given small white boards and dry erase markers. I thought that was a little extreme since sometimes you have to write things down in order to assist the patient or customer with their request. In other offices there were bins that we dumped all our paper in at the end if the day that would eventually be shredded. But again, I sort of understood where they were coming from. Finally we were told we could have no bags on the floor. No backpacks or purse or what have you. If you absolutely had to bring belonging out on to the floor they had to be in some form of transparent bag. To me this was a little more than extreme so I did some research and found out that the company was fined heavily by the government when one of its former employees was caught stealing and selling personal health information. At that point I assumed that they were just covering all their bases when it came to HIPAA. Then we started taking calls.

During our first week on the call center floor my training class was not authorized to take calls because of an IT snafu so we listened in on the calls of another class who started the same time we did. In the past I may have said that HIPAA was an answer to a question that no one asked but it’s been the law of the land for the while now. You wouldn’t have been able to tell with the calls I heard. The CSR’s were giving out all sorts of personal information to parties that should have not had that kind of access. They weren’t doing it maliciously but no trainer, coach or supervisor was correcting them. When I asked a higher-up about it I was basically told that the new hires have 30 days on the floor before they start cracking down on things like that? That may be great for the new hires but they’re talking to real patients who have real medical needs whose real personal information was being given to unauthorized parties with no repercussions.

Shortly into the 2nd week of being on the call center floor I walked out. I wish I could say it was all due to the flagrant violation of federal privacy laws but it was a rather large part of it. The really sad part is a lot of customers of this company have no idea that their information is being given out so freely.

Why living with anxiety is like being punched in the face

anxiety

The cartoon I posted above does a pretty good job of representing what it’s like to live with anxiety issues but no matter how clever the cartoon is it can’t really show how people with anxiety problems really feel. Someone with no issues may see that cartoon and think that anxiety only happens infrequently while a lot of us live with it on a constant basis. I’m going to try to explain how it really feels.

Imagine that every day when you woke up you had to be punched in the face. You constantly know it’s coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. However if you somehow manage to not get punched in the face there’s a good chance that you’ll lose everyone and everything you love. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting punched in the face enough or you feel like that no one appreciates that you’re getting punched in the face for them. You can’t tell anyone you’re being punched in the face daily for fear of looking weak or like a complainer. This is how I felt every day for as long as I can remember even when I was a small child in grade school. Just once I’d like to wake up without having that twitchy and flinching feeling knowing that the punch in the face is imminent. Instead, I and countless others put on this false face to try to convince everyone else that everything is ok even though just underneath the surface we are screaming for help. On those rare occasions we do ask for help a lot of times we’re met with eyerolls as to say “Well, just stop having anxiety” as if we wouldn’t switch it off if we could. I often lose sleep over it with the logic that if I don’t go to sleep I won’t have to wake up and be punched in the face. It affects your work too sometimes to the point of an almost paralytic fear but employers don’t want to hear “I’m sorry for my poor performance, you should feel lucky that I even came in today since I constantly have the fear of God in me.” Which leads to more punches in the face that your family and friends wonder why you just can’t take the punches. But you really do want to be able to take the punches. You want to be ‘normal’. You want to be like other people who can roll out of bed with no problem, duck the punch and carry on with the rest of their day. Instead we just keep getting punched in the face with every fiber of our physical being craving some kind of release from this personal hell that we know may only come at the end of our days.

I didn’t post this for sympathy. This is the internet after all and I know where to find it in the dictionary. I posted it in hopes that if you know someone who suffers from anxiety you can have at least a modicum of understanding for what they’re going through.

Trench on ‘surprise’ medical charges

medical-billing

Lately an article from the New York Times about surprise medical charges has been making the rounds on Facebook. Once again people are taking the article at face value without doing any further research. Luckily for you I’m here to tell you the real deal as I call upon my 20+ years experience in the healthcare field. If you doubt my credentials they just happen to be that I worked for a major health insurance company for ten years and for the next 15 I’ve been working in various medical clerical positions mostly including medical billing.

The article seems to be mostly focused on one man’s plight when he received a rather astronomical bill for a surgery that he had. The charge was for an assistant surgeon who was out of his insurance’s network. The article gives the impression that there is no recourse even though there is.

First off this is a rare occurrence in my experience. If you going to have surgery in a hospital that is in your network and the primary surgeon is in your network then the odds are that the assistant surgeon will be in your network too. If the assistant surgeon is not in your network a majority of the time the insurance company is willing to make a deal with the doctor and most doctor’s offices are more than willing to work with the insurance company. The article also seems to give the impression that doctor’s will know ahead of time if they’ll need an assistant surgeon. Usually an assistant surgeon is called in during the surgery when an anomaly or difficulty is discovered. Also if you read deep into the article you’ll find that the man’s insurance company did end up paying the assistant surgeon’s fee.

Here’s the one tip that everybody needs to keep in mind. Doctor’s do not know how billing procedures work. They are usually too involved in treating the patient to worry about each individual insurance policy covers. That’s what medical billers and coders are for and most of us bust our asses to get the most benefit from your insurance company.

Suicide is selfish

typeonegativesuicide

So as we all have heard by now a renowned celebrity killed himself recently. When my wife told me the news I said that I don’t get it. She said to me that I of all people should get it. What she means is that I suffer from depression, horribly. Also in my younger years I have attempted suicide. I tried in my teens because of a hellish situation at home and in my mid 20s because I experienced a drastic life change for the worse at the time. I have not made any attempts since then. That’s not to say the thought never enters my mind but I digress.

Getting back to the celebrity in question, the reason I don’t get it is because as far as I can tell he had the means and resources to get help. I’ve heard reports that he committed suicide due to financial issues but how bad could they have been? Would they be to the level where he would have to live on the street? I doubt it. I’m not faulting him for being successful in his career but he should have taken advantage of that success in order to get help.

Suicide mostly has to do with mental illness, no one knows that better than me, however it is also an act of selfishness. No matter who you are if you take your own life it will have repercussions among those closest to you for years to come and may affect someone in a negative way for the rest of their life.

Take me for example. Like I’ve mention ad nauseam I suffer from depression. I take medication for it which helps but there are still bad days. For example right now I’m unemployed. I have been for the past 7 months. I didn’t work at my previous job, which was a temp job, long enough to be able to collect unemployment. What little money I’m able to scrounge up comes from panhandling to friends and strangers on the internet. I can’t even get hired by retail or fast food let alone my own field.

My car is in a serious state of disrepair. Because of my financial situation I am unable to get the car repaired which means I can’t get inspected or registered for the year. Because of that the car has been ticketed multiple times for having expired tags. In less than 30 days I have to do one of the following, pay a $250 fine which only delays getting ticketed again, turn in the tags which leaves me with no transportation, or go to jail for not doing the previous two.

Speaking of my meds, I have to ration them because I don’t know when I’ll be able to afford them again or be able to afford a visit to the doctor’s.

The past seven months have been very hard not only on me but my family as well and yes there are some days where I’m so depressed that I pray for the release of death. A situation like this I’m sure has broken people before but I persevere. I have to. There is no other way. I have no choice. I have a family who would be devastated if I were to take my own life. I care for them too much to ever do that to them no matter how bleak my situation gets. I don’t tell you this for your pity, I tell you this because suicide is not a normal or healthy thought.

If you are considering suicide I urge you to get mental help as quick as you can. There’s no shame in admitting that you need help.

Asthmanefrin: DO NOT BUY

asthmanefrin

If you suffer from asthma and can’t afford a prescription inhaler you probably lament the loss of the Primatene Mist inhalers. So do I. If you go to your local pharmacy and see a product called Asthmanefrin, that is supposedly designed to replace Primatene, do yourself a favor, avoid it if at all possible.

Over the past couple of years I’ve purchased way too many of their starter kits that contains the inhalation solution and the EZ Breathe Atomizer.

atomizer

The reason I keep buying the starter kit is because the atomizer always stops working after about two weeks. Asthmanefrin will tell you that you have to clean it properly after each use for the atomizer to function properly. In my experience that doesn’t help. All the atomizers I’ve ever had no matter how I maintained them died after two weeks and once they die that’s it. You can’t get them working again. So to get a new one you have to buy the starter kit again which goes for $50 a pop and above. Still cheaper than prescription inhalers but less cost-effective if you’re having to buy a new one every two weeks.

Last year I worked for a pharmaceutical company and had access to industry news sources. At that time it was being reported that Primatene was on its way back to the market with a newly designed inhaler. As of the time I’m writing this it has not yet been brought to market. We can only hope it hits our store shelves soon.

Psychologist: Don’t blame mass shootings on mental illness

psychiatry-symbol

Jeff Temple is a psychologist and a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He’s also a columnist for the Houston Chronicle. Recently he wrote a column with the headline of “Don’t be so quick to blame mental illness in shootings.” He says that we shouldn’t mistake correlation for causation. He also says that the majority of people with mental illness are non-violent and rather blames things like what he calls unfettered access to weapons, racism and hate, and misogyny.

In my opinion rational people, like myself, are not saying that mental health is the cause of mass shootings however as someone who suffers from a mental illness what we’re saying is that mental healthcare needs to be less stigmatized and more readily available. I also argue that there needs to be discussion on when the safety of the public outweighs the privacy of the mentally ill. Also , I agree with Dr. Temple that most people with mental illness are not violent however the ones that are show a very intense violent nature.

Adam Lanza was said to have been schizophrenic. NIU gunman Stephen Kazmierczak had a history of psychotic episodes and hallucinations. Cho Seung-Hui, was court ordered to receive mental health treatment but never went. Most recently Seattle Pacific University gunman Aaron Ybarra not only went off his meds but also had at least three psychotic episodes involving police or the ER but was not detained because his mother refused to have him committed.

While they’re may have been other extenuating circumstances you can not say that mental illness did not have a part in a lot of mass shootings.

I’m not saying that everyone with a mental illness is a potential killer however as I previously said mental healthcare needs to be less stigmatized so people won’t feel ashamed about getting help but we also need to discern when involuntary commitment is best before someone becomes a potential danger like the gunmen listed above.