Marquette, MI –Thursday, May 23 – One in five Americans took psychotropic drugs in 2010, according to a new report issued by research group Medco Health Solutions, and the number was even higher for women. These drugs are used to treat anything from depression and anxiety, to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
As part of the Peter White Public Library’s continuing series about mental health, they invited MGH’s Behavioral Scientist Michael Papin to discuss one of the most common and debilitating risks associated with taking these drugs, which is Metabolic Syndrome, or weight gain.
He said that chronic mental illness is associated with a shortened life span of about 20-25 years on average, and the major reason has to do with cardiovascular disorders and diabetes from the effects of drugs prescribed to treat mental illness.
Diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome (MS) requires the patient meet three of the following risk criteria, according to ADA and ATP-III guidelines: abdominal obesity (measured in waist circumference), high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol), high blood pressure, and high fasting plasma glucose levels.
Not all psychotropic drugs have risks of weight gain, and medication affects every person differently, he said. But for the many who do suffer from this side effect, a number of things should be done to ensure the overall health of the patient.
The most important thing, he said, is careful prescribing of medication. If someone can be treated effectively without psychotropic drugs, those avenues need to be explored.
Once prescribed, careful monitoring of side effects on the part of the patient’s primary care doctor is very important. He said that something like less than 30% of patients get the recommended level of monitoring, often due to lack of insurance and limited resources.
Papin said some of the most effective methods for controlling weight gain in patients is severely underused, which includes lifestyle counseling, intervention and education, to help people self-monitor accurately, set and achieve goals, and break destructive habits.
Walking an extra 5-10 minutes a day can greatly improve your health, he said, so he recommends simple things like parking farther away from your destination or getting off the bus a stop early.
Also, instead of grabbing those chips while you watch a movie, have some tea or control your portions. This advice applies to more than just patients on psychotropic drugs.