news

What’s up at the Bipolar Burble? Good News

→ December 6, 2011 - 14 Comments

I don’t like to write too many self-referential posts because I’m pretty sure masturbatory navel-gazing isn’t why people come here. However, now and then people like to know what’s up.

And right now there are exciting things afoot at the Bipolar Burble and for me as well so I thought I’d let you know about them.

Natasha Tracy Nominated for Health Activist of the Year

WegoHealth is awarding health activists of the year. They have categories for:

  • Best in show
  • Rookie of the year
  • Paperboy award
  • Health activist hero
  • Advocating for another
  • TMI award
  • Hilarious health activist
  • Offline crusader
  • Best affirmation post
  • Best kept secret

Natasha Tracy as Health Activist of the YearThese awards are for people who, “moved you, inspired you, and made a real difference in how you think about healthcare and living well.”

And I am honored to be nominated for Best in Show. And while I suppose everyone says “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” I do mean that. People have said such kind things about me and that’s the fuel that keeps the fires here at the Burble lit.

Have Your Say on Health Activists

Want to have your say? Contact WegoHealth to tell them what you think of me or nominate someone else! (They are also looking for people for their judging panel.)

Bipolar Burble Nominated for Best Health Blog 2011

Yes, in the string of self-congratulations, I must also say that the Bipolar Burble has been nominated for Best Health Blog of 2011 at HealthLine.com.

Natasha Tracy and Bipolar Burble Best Health BlogBut only you can help me win.

This, alas, is a bit of a popularity contest, so I must ask you to vote for me now and as often as possible (you can vote once a day) in order for me to win. I appreciate every one of your votes and I hope you’ll forgive me for prodding you about it over the next six weeks.

Off Label – An Unbalanced Look at a Bipolar Life – Memoir

You might have noticed that I published an excerpt from my memoir, Off Label, months ago. This was to get some public feedback and to generally let people know what is happening. But the memoir has sort of sat in a bottom folder on my hard drive collecting dust for quite some time. It’s not that I don’t care about getting it published – I do, but because of the way the publishing industry works right now, I have to prove my popularity before an agent will be interested in me.

And recently I’ve managed to do that.

Over the last few days two agents have shown interest in representing me and I’m hoping one of them will sign me as a client.

Now, publishing is still a far off dream, but I’ve taken another big step forward.

And in case you were wondering, a tip of the hat goes to Natalie Jeanne Champagne as she spurred me forward in this endeavour.

Sharing the Good News

So that’s the good news around here. It’s nice to take a break from the medical stuff and bring it to you. Thanks for a wonderful year of support. If you keep it up, I promise to keep working hard and bringing you quality, well-researched information on mental illness.

You all rock.

Physiological Causes of Depression – Surgeon’s General Report

→ July 6, 2009 - 2 Comments

I like to think I know almost all there is to know about mood disorders, but I was pretty shocked when I read this:

The Surgeon’s General Report

Differential Diagnosis
Mood disorders are sometimes caused by general medical conditions or medications. Classic examples include the depressive syndromes associated with dominant hemispheric strokes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and pancreatic cancer (DSM-IV). Among medications associated with depression, antihypertensives and oral contraceptives are the most frequent examples. Transient depressive syndromes are also common during withdrawal from alcohol and various other drugs of abuse. Mania is not uncommon during high-dose systemic therapy with glucocorticoids and has been associated with intoxication by stimulant and sympathomimetic drugs and with central nervous system (CNS) lupus, CNS human immunodeficiency viral (HIV) infections, and nondominant hemispheric strokes or tumors. Together, mood disorders due to known physiological or medical causes may account for as many as 5 to 15 percent of all treated cases (Quitkin et al., 1993b). They often go unrecognized until after standard therapies have failed.

(bold mine)

I’m shocked. No one ever mentioned anything about birth control pills to me and I’ve been on them for years. YEARS. This is yet another reason why doctors so often get on my bad side.

This quote was taken from the Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. The whole report is a good read, but very long. It’s everything you wanted to know but didn’t know you needed to ask.

I’m disgusted.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation May Cause Improvements in Memory

→ June 26, 2009 - Comments off

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation May Cause Improvements in Memory – Psychiatric Times

Now, understand that depression impinges on memory function and the correlation below may not be the rTMS improving memory per se but the relief of depression actually causing memory to function like it did when the brain was not depressed.

Still good news though. Memory loss is one of the awful things about depression as it hinders your ability to not only remember your loved ones, and life, but also work.

Oh, and FYI, Wernicke’s area, which is where the rTMS is being applied, is closer to the brain stem than I would like making it less likely that I could try it (The VNS coil is too close.)


Wernicke’s area – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

Wernicke’s area is one of the two parts of the cerebral cortex linked since the late nineteenth century to speech (the other is the Broca’s area). It is traditionally considered to consist of the posterior …

AstraZeneca Accused of Hiding Seroquel Dangers

→ May 25, 2009 - Comments off

AstraZeneca plays hot potato with Seroquel side effects. Here are the highlights from the article (bold and italic text added by me):

AstraZeneca E-mails Show Debate on Seroquel Risks
Associated Press – May. 20, 2009

TRENTON, New Jersey–Marketing executives at British drug maker AstraZeneca PLC for years blocked efforts by company scientists to raise concerns the antipsychotic drug Seroquel caused weight gain and other problems, saying that would harm sales, plaintiff lawyers say.

Ed Blizzard, a Houston attorney whose firm is helping to represent about 6,000 Seroquel plaintiffs, said data showing Seroquel was “not very effective” and had serious side effects “was either spun or skewed or outright concealed.”

Seroquel was AstraZeneca’s No. 2 drug in sales last year, with revenue of $4.5 billion.

In a chain of e-mails in one document, a scientists’ safety evaluation committee in June 2000 recommended removing “limited” before the words “weight gain” in the list of Seroquel side effects, because many patients gained significant weight.

Marketing staff suggested trying other explanations, such as whether patients took other drugs that could be blamed. One marketing executive, Medical Affairs Manager Richard Owen, then wrote that such a change “is potentially damaging to Seroquel.”

The change in the drug’s label was finally made in 2002. That was after Barry Arnold, the vice president for clinical drug safety, complained repeatedly to the physician in charge of Seroquel drug safety about “Commercial (executives) having such an influence.”

Yet soon after the label change, AstraZeneca trademarked the term “weight-neutral” as an advertising slogan for Seroquel, Blizzard noted. He said data showed about one-quarter of patients taking Seroquel increased their weight by more than 7 percent. (Note that this is only the 7% weight gain noted during the study which is a much shorter duration that typical treatment.)

Later in 2002, Simon Hagger, global brand manager for Seroquel, e-mailed nearly 20 marketing staffers to say “we are under clear instruction from the highest level within AstraZeneca at this time not to discuss details surrounding trial 41,” outside the company. That patient study, concluded that year, found elevated levels of blood sugar.

In April, a panel of FDA scientific advisers said Seroquel’s side effects, including weight gain, high blood sugar and potential heart problems, were too troubling to make it a first choice against depression or anxiety. On a split vote, the panel said Seroquel could be used as an added therapy for patients taking other medicines but not getting relief from depression. The FDA has yet to issue a final ruling.

AstraZeneca faces roughly 15,000 lawsuits over Seroquel, about 60 percent of them in state courts. The first state trial is set to begin in Delaware on June 29. No federal trials have been held yet.

You have to register (it’s free) to see the whole article. I can’t say enough bad things about antipsychotics, myself, but definitely worse than the drug are the marketers and executives that try to hide the dangers to thrust the horrible side-effects onto an unsuspecting public. Nail their asses to the wall say I.

Marijuana Makes Depression Better and Worse?

→ April 30, 2008 - 1 Comment

‘Roud these parts lots of people are smoking lots of stuff that might not entirely be legal. Very common. Good climate for that sort of thing.

I though, have always been of the opinion that marijuana makes depression worse and so stay away from the stuff. Really, if you’re crazy and on psychotropic drugs, adding extra, less predictable, street psychotropic drugs doesn’t seem like a good idea. Anecdotally, do stoners strike you as obscenely happy people? They strike me as just slow, tired, munchie-craving people. That’s not going to help me feel better. (More logically, THC from the marijuana coats the outside of your brain cells, further impeding neurotransmitters, which is bad if you already have a serotonin deficiency.)

But the nice folks at McGill university weren’t about to answer the question with conjecture, which is why I like science so much. And I was surprised. Turns out that small amount of marijuana might actually help you, but large amounts can actually increase depression and maybe cause psychosis. I copied the article below for your convenience.

MONTREAL, Oct. 24 (UPI) — A synthetic form of the active ingredient of marijuana acts as an antidepressant in low doses but in higher doses can worsen depression, a Canadian study said.

First author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University said it has been long known that depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain leads to depression, so antidepressants like Prozac and Celexa work by enhancing the available concentration of serotonin in the brain.

This study offers the first evidence that marijuana can also increase serotonin, at least at lower doses, but at higher doses the serotonin in the rats’ brains dropped below the level of those in the control group.

The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, finds excessive marijuana use in people with depression poses high risk of psychosis.

The antidepressant and intoxicating effects of marijuana are due to its chemical similarity to natural substances in the brain known as “endo-cannabinoids,” which are released under conditions of high stress or pain, Gobbi said.

Don’t rush to dial-a-dealer just yet though, because amounts are unclear, and the study was on rats. Unless you’re a rat. Then, go for it.

L-methylfolate as Antidepressant Enhancing Agent

→ January 6, 2008 - Comments off

I do a lot of psychopharmacology research reading. Like, a lot. I try to post things that I find interesting and not bore you with everything else. Similarly, I try to post things that are decently easy to read and understand. Today though, you have not gotten off so lucky, but the article is interesting.

What is L-Methylfolate?

L-methylfolate (MTHF) is a compound your body makes from folate (and the help of a few other things). Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate, available to take in supplemental form. Pregnant mothers generally take folic acid. As you would assume, taking more folic acid, will up the level of MTHF found in the brain.

The problem comes with an MTHF deficiency. This deficiency cannot necessarily be corrected by taking folic acid as some people genetically do not synthesize enough MTHF from folate from the diet or through supplements, moreover, there is some evidence to suggests that MTHF can “turn up” the efficacy of antidepressants even when no deficiency is present. It can also take many, many times the amount of folic acid to synthesize the amount of MTHF needed than would be found in the diet or available supplements. Anticonvulsants (mood stabilizers, like Lamictal and others) can also create a depletion in MTHF.

What Does This L-Methylfolate Stuff Mean?

The long story short is this, there is some evidence to suggest that taking MTHF supplements is warranted when antidepressants have either stopped working, or are not working at all. MTHF supplements are considered neither a drug, nor a food by the FDA (funny huh) but are still regulated and require a prescription.

This is really preliminary data there are all kinds of studies needed to bear out these findings, and my explanation above has been really simplified. But the really great thing about knowing about it is that it can help you, without causing the kind of side effects you typically see with pharmacological drugs. My doctor, who is seriously a no-nonsense woman made me aware of this, really respects the author of the article, and has given me a prescription for the stuff, whatever that’s worth. When you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. After being on anticonvulsants for years (like, eight of them) it’s not surprising that I’m deficient in a nutrient or two. This would explain why antidepressants just don’t seem to work in some people, and also seem to stop working after some time.

The article itself is good, but it’s extremely complicated and has so many chemical names in it it makes my brain hurt. There are pictures though. Kind of funny ones, I think. So, try to wade through the article, or just print out a copy and take it into your doctor and see what the say.

Article found here. Enjoy. (At least look at the diagrams. Steve there has a sense of humor.)