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I was an antipsychotic zombie

October 29, 2015

Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ Edward Opton

For Halloween, I bring you a personal recollection from a person well known to me.  My friend wrote:

Some years ago, I was, for one day, an antipsychotic zombie. It was an eye-opener that I shall never forget.

At the time, I was a clinical psychology intern working in a university-affiliated hospital. Salesmen’s drug samples were a common sight, lying about on desktops and discarded in wastebaskets. I thought I should know what my patients were experiencing. I picked up an “antipsychotic” sample pill, peeled off the plastic wrapper, and swallowed it.

Eighteen hours later, I understood why people use the term “zombie” in connection  with “antipsychotic” drugs. I had not yet heard “zombie” used that way, but when I did, I understood to a degree that would not have been possible without the personal experience.

The “antipsychotic” rendered me almost as immobile as if I were dead, but I was awake, my mind slowly meandering in repetitive, uncontrolled directions, unable to focus on anything in an organized way, not even “get up–your bladder is full–you need to pee.” I could think that thought, in fact I couldn’t stop thinking it over and over and over, but my brain seemed to be disconnected from the muscles that had to move to get me off the couch and into the bathroom. It felt as if the connections between brain and body had been severed. I had become what is now known as a “couch potato.”

Had I been an acutely disturbed psychiatric patient, I would have been rated “much improved,” for I was exhibiting no symptoms of mental unbalance. I was not bothering anyone. I was not wandering, complaining, threatening, whining, boasting, talking incomprehensibly, or being obnoxious or troublesome. I was doing nothing at all. I would have been a relief to my caregivers.  For me, though, it was an 18-hour visit to hell.

The experience of a single dose enabled me to understand, as nothing else could have, why so many people say no to “antipsychotics.”

Note: This recollection is published with my friend’s permission.  It is not a recommendation to anyone to risk similar self-education.

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optonEdward Opton is of counsel to the National Center for Youth Law. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, Opton was an employment and labor lawyer for the University of California from 1981 to 2006. Earlier, in his first post-law school job, he was an associate at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Law is Opton’s second career. A graduate of Yale, he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University. He did research on psychological stress at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s and was Associate Dean at The Wright Institute, a graduate school of psychology in Berkeley.

Edward Opton is of counsel to NCYL. He is the first attorney to work long-term with NCYL after retiring from full-time practice. Since January 2007, he has been working principally with Senior Attorney Bill Grimm on Child Welfare issues. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, Opton was an employment and labor lawyer for the University of California from 1981 to 2006. Earlier, in his first post-law school job, he was an associate at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Law is Opton’s second career. A graduate of Yale, he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University. He did research on psychological stress at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s and was Associate Dean at The Wright Institute, a graduate school of psychology in Berkeley. – See more at: http://youthlaw.org/staff-biographies/#Opton
Edward Opton is of counsel to NCYL. He is the first attorney to work long-term with NCYL after retiring from full-time practice. Since January 2007, he has been working principally with Senior Attorney Bill Grimm on Child Welfare issues. A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, Opton was an employment and labor lawyer for the University of California from 1981 to 2006. Earlier, in his first post-law school job, he was an associate at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Law is Opton’s second career. A graduate of Yale, he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University. He did research on psychological stress at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and ‘70s and was Associate Dean at The Wright Institute, a graduate school of psychology in Berkeley. – See more at: http://youthlaw.org/staff-biographies/#Opton
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