I recently came across this article which talks about a Korean study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. In a nutshell, researchers determined that second-generation antipsychotics (SGA), which are also known as atypical antipsychotics, cause symptoms of OCD in a significant number of those taking the drugs for schizophrenia. Some brand names of atypical antipsychotics are: Abilify, Clozaril, Geodon, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.
At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I could have told you that. When Dan’s OCD was severe, he was prescribed Risperdal, and then subsequently switched to Abilify. These drugs, which are FDA approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are often used off-label for those with OCD. Dan’s psychiatrist told us they would “enhance” the effects of the SSRI he was taking. All we noticed were a slew of side-effects and a worsening of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. The same thing happened when Dan was prescribed Vyvanse, again off-label. This drug is also known to exacerbate, as well as cause, symptoms of OCD. We found out the hard way.
I used to think that Dan was particularly unlucky with these meds that, according to his doctor, “help a lot of people.” As the years have passed, however, I’ve spoken to a good number of OCD sufferers, as well as parents of those with OCD, and now realize that Dan’s experiences, while maybe not the norm, are certainly not uncommon.
Many of the stories I hear share another common thread, especially those where parents are involved: The psychiatrist or physician who prescribed these medications denied they could be the cause of their patient’s worsening OCD symptoms.
We need to be careful. We need to be our own advocates, and advocate for those we love. I am not here to say nobody should ever be on any of these meds. I know they really do help some OCD sufferers. Rather, I’m saying we need to be informed and aware of not only how these drugs can help those with OCD, but also how they can harm them. Even SSRI’s, some of which are approved by the FDA for the treatment of OCD, come with some heavy-duty side effects, particularly in teenagers and young adults.
We need to trust our instincts. If you feel that a medication is affecting you or your loved one adversely, don’t just take the doctor’s word that “that’s not the case.” Because the bottom line is, while the physician may be an expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder, you are the expert on you, or your child. I think this is something we all need to remember when dealing with OCD and the myriad of drugs used to treat the disorder.