In the fall he got shingles. A lot of people get shingles, you know. It’s relatively common, especially once you hit 40. I can’t count the number of friends and acquaintances I have who have gotten shingles.
The doctor did what a lot of doctors do and wrote a prescription for prednisone. That’s one of those common drugs that anyone who has children has been thankful for. I guarantee that if you live in America, are in the middle or upper classes and have at least one child you have at some point filled a prescription for prednisone. (ETA: I now hear from a lot of friends who actually won’t take or allow their kids to take prednisone. I KNEW I shouldn’t have made such a blanket statement.)
Its very commonality makes it seem non-threatening. “Prednisone? I’ve given that to my dog!” “Prednisone? I took that for really bad allergies last spring!” It’s up there with things like Tylenol and Z-Pacs. People know it and that familiarity breeds comfort.
So nobody really thought much of it when he started taking prednisone for the shingles.
Now, five months later I think there are a lot of people wondering why we didn’t burn the prescription instead of getting it filled. Why didn’t we flush those pills? Why? Why?
Actually, several of us have been asking that question since Christmas. We watched him have trouble sleeping, have trouble gathering his thoughts and fall into bizarre mania. We watched him propose outlandish solutions to problems that weren’t really problems. Just things his altered mind dredged up to taunt him.
Like hundreds of thousands of other people, my brother-in-law was a victim of Prednisone Psychosis. It’s a very real thing, but most people don’t know about it until their spouse or other loved or–God Forbid–they themselves switch from a person with a painful itch to a person with a broken brain.
I’ll not go into all the details of the last few months because they aren’t germane. The number of hospitalisations and medications attempted to treat the problem are all kind of moot at this point. Because like 3% of people with Prednisone Psychosis do, my brother-in-law killed himself. The break in his mind took over and he took the only way out he could see.
In the fall he got shingles. In the spring he got a casket.
There are almost always alternatives to prednisone and other steroids. If your doctor prescribes that medicine for you, ask about alternatives that do NOT involve steroids. If there are no alternatives please let your loved ones, your pastor, your support people know to keep an eye on you. Keep an eye on yourself. Leave yourself a note insisting that if you stop sleeping or start thinking that selling all your cars would be a GREAT idea that you get back to the doctor right away.
Prednisone is not harmless. Let me salvage hope for others out of this tragedy.