pharmaceutical guinea pigThere was a patient in a psych ward I worked with that refused to take her meds.  A lot of my patients refused meds but this particular case haunts me every now and again.

“Why won’t you take your medication?”

“I don’t want to wake up one day with some random twitch in my neck, you know?”

I was recently at my psychiatrist’s session and had to ask.

“How long have I been on my mood stabilizer… three..four..years?”


My stomach dropped and I grabbed my neck to see if it was shaking and thought what about five, ten, fifteen years down the line.  What could happen?  I am someone that quits or changes medications the second I experience a side effect but what if there is a side effect that grows over the years that just shows up one day.  What then?  We can’t add that to the side effect list now cause we don’t know what it may be yet.  Do we add that to the side effect list then?  When it’s too late? Am I a pharmaceutical guinea pig?

What could happen, ‘cause we don’t know.  We speak of long term side effects but what about longer term side effects that show up a decade later.  Especially with all the new drugs the pharmaceutical companies put out every year.  I’m thrilled to have finally found a medication that works, and five years sounds like a lot to me but, what about the longer term side effects that might be growing in my brain as we speak?

Sometimes I get scared when I think about it but… I’m more scared of playing hop scotch with meds again in an effort to find another pill and start the whole process of seeing if it fits and managing its side effects all over again cause at the end of the day, there might be longer side effects that won’t show up for ages either and there’s nothing I can do about it for now.

Immediate side effects are easy to curb, if you don’t like them you quit; you switch to something else.  Long term side effects can also be curbed once they present themselves over time and again, you have a chance to change.  But, longer term side effects…? That’s a mystery to me, for now.

Woman taking pills photo available from Shutterstock



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    Last reviewed: 12 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Loberg, E. (2012). Am I a Pharmaceutical Guinea Pig? – Longer term side effects of a pill that works for you now. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 1, 2015, from


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