At this point in time, anyone with access to a TV or the internet knows that Robin Williams committed suicide. The first reports of this terrible tragedy mentioned that he was battling depression. Soon after it was revealed that he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
I have no idea if Robin Williams had begun taking any medication for Parkinson’s but I will take this opportunity to write about a possible connection between depression and the drugs administered for Parkinson’s and many other ailments.
Personally I am on no medications and I plan to work hard to keep it that way. Not knowing what the next thirty or forty (dare I say fifty?) years will hold, I will absolutely hold out for as long as I can. Ironically, I could possibly get away with taking the drugs I am referring to. I don’t suffer much from depression and anxiety which would allow me to think differently about these medications.
But this post is for a certain slice of the population that needs to pay particular attention to the warning signs about possible side effects from the medications they are sometimes blithely prescribed. Reporting issues with anxiety and depression is of the utmost importance when it comes to informed choices about treatment.
If Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s it is possible that he would have been taking Neurontin, the active ingredient of which is gabapentin. Neurontin is a seizure and pain killing medication that is associated with, though not necessarily approved for, a number of other ailments as well including epilepsy, shingles, restless leg syndrome, migraines.
Neurontin, and drugs of its kind, can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients. If that isn’t scary enough there is a particularly violent aspect to the ideation created by the negative side-effects. The concept of stabbing oneself in the chest might seem beyond the pale, and even beyond common sense, but as you can see below this is a common trait amongst people who suffer from a downward spiral of this type.
Here is a paragraph from the list of possible side effects from Neurontin,
A small number of people who take anticonvulsants for any condition (such as seizures, bipolar disorder, pain) may experience depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, or other mental/mood problems. Tell your doctor immediately if you or your family/caregiver notice any unusual/sudden changes in your mood, thoughts, or behavior including signs of depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, thoughts about harming yourself.
An obvious question is why any doctor would prescribe such a pill to someone susceptible to these types of side-effects?
For a number of reasons:
- Patients might not report on anxiety and depression issues on an intake or when offered a prescription for Neurontin.
- Some patients who do report issues might have doctors downplay the role of side-effects in a well-meaning attempt to find relief for an ailing patient.
- These drugs are often started at very low dosages and a doctor might honestly think that a low dose would have a lesser effect on a sensitive person’s nervous system.
- Too many patients don’t read the fine print.
I won’t go on too much longer and again I have no idea if, and what, drugs Robin Williams might have been taking. I am simply using the moment to make a point. As a culture it is imperative that we start reading the fine print of our health.
It would be best to avoid medications if at all possible but if you have to take them spend some time getting to know what you will be taking. It is worth the research.
And you don’t have to search too far to read a macabre tale of Neurontin’s path. Search Neurontin & suicide, and here is the second link you’ll see: