The Mighty Logo

Why This Pill-Shaming Tweet Is So Dangerous

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

I try not to take Twitter too seriously. There’s a lot of muck to trudge through in order to get to something good, and therefore, I don’t pay too much mind and attention to most of the content I see on there.

But sometimes, a tweet comes along that really grinds my gears. Cut to April 9, 3:55 p.m., when I’m sitting outside of my building waiting to meet a friend. As I’m scrolling down my timeline, I see a post from a Twitter user, in which he aims his camera at a box full of pill bottles, captioned: “You do not need them. You can do it. I did it and I want to help everyone do the same.”

I know, instantaneously, that it can only get worse from here.

The video itself is short, 47 seconds. But a record-breaking amount of wrongdoing happens in such a short span of time.

“All of these, I got in 2017,” the user narrates. “It was a long year, all of them. Some of them are still full. They all consist of Lithium, Olanzapine, Citalopram, Hydroxyzine, and Venlafaxine. All those, it’s for severe agitation, insomnia, anxiety, depression.” And my personal favorite part: “Lithium, whatever that’s for.”

He then continues: “Man, you don’t need ‘em. I probably haven’t taken any of those in…I think I stopped in 2018. For a year I received all of those, and I stopped taking ‘em.”

I know. Take it in. There’s a lot to unpack.

First, off, let’s describe what these are for, because I question if the man really knows at this point.

  • Lithium is a mood stabilizer, often used for bipolar disorder, to regulate mania, according to NAMI.
  • Olanzapine, also known as Zyprexa, is an antipsychotic prescribed mainly for schizophrenia, but can also be prescribed for bipolar disorder It’s often used to suppress psychosis and mania. (NAMI)
  • Citalopram, also known as Celexa, is an antidepressant, and I think it’s easy to infer what that’s for. (NAMI)
  • Hydroxyzine, also known as Vistaril or Atarax, is a primarily an anti-allergy medication, but it’s also been approved for treating anxiety. (NAMI)
  • Venlaxafine, also known as Effexor, is an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. (NAMI)

Now that we know what these are for, I think it’s pretty clear that pill-shaming people who are on these medications, or medications similar to them, is a pretty terrible idea.

Listen, I don’t know about his mental state. Perhaps he’s truly in a better place, and he doesn’t need the medications prescribed to him anymore. If that’s the case, that’s great! Based on the amount of pills he was on, it sounds like he was overprescribed, which can wreak havoc in its own right. I don’t blame him for being relieved that it’s over. Good for him, if he truly doesn’t need them anymore.

The problem is, not everyone is him.

I’m on two medications right now: an antidepressant and an antipsychotic, both for my schizoaffective disorder, a diagnosis that combines depression and schizophrenia. If I’m off the antidepressant for a week or two, I struggle to get out of bed, do my work and take care of myself in the most basic ways — eating, sleeping healthily. The last time I was off the antipsychotic, my delusions came back.

For those unaware, delusions are a form of psychosis that take the form of false beliefs that are not true. Some people delude themselves into believing they’re the Dalai Lama. Others believe the government is chasing after them because they have the cure for cancer. It’s different for everybody.

Personally, I think I’m being set up. All the time. My most bizarre has been believing someone tricked me into going on a road trip with my friends halfway across the country so I could be abducted outside of a California Walmart. It’s weird, it’s nonsensical, but it’s scary in a way I’ve never felt when I’m not psychotic. It feels so real, like you’re at the center of a JFK-assassination-tier conspiracy, and you have no way to break out of it.

I was off of my antipsychotic for two days, and that’s where my brain ended up as a result.

So, I take issue with the idea that no one “needs” medication, especially when it’s something as severe as an antipsychotic. Some people’s mental illnesses go away. Some people have strange little blips, and nothing more. It’s possible, and that’s great for them. But for me — and many others like me — it looks like this condition is going to last a lifetime. And if I need a few pills every day to make it to 60, 70 or 80, I’m going to take them.

Bottom line, you don’t know what other people’s symptoms, diagnoses or needs are. It’s incredibly bold (and incredibly wrong) to assume that because you got off easy, the rest of us are going to as well. It’s short-sighted and condescending, and it’s a toxic message to spread across the internet.

So for anyone promoting med-shaming, please log off. The mental health community will be better off for it.

Image via Twitter

Originally published: April 11, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home