May 14, 2011

SSRIs and creativity

The prime suspect.
I have this notion that the back cover of every novel should include a list of the medications the author took while writing it. Full disclosure -- I love it.

So here goes. I take "sub-clinical" doses of two drugs: Effexor X/R and Neurontin. Effexor is an SSRI. Neurontin is not. The latter is a unique drug, good for all sorts of things. Go, Neurontin! 

"Sub-clinical" means the dose is less than the minimum normally prescribed. As people are placed on Effexor X/R, an SSRI anti-depressant, the initial dose is 75 mg. But typically that's just for starters. Almost everyone graduates to 150 mg. or higher.

I take the baby dose because more makes me edgy. In fact, the reason I take 300 mg. of Neurontin is to tone down the edginess of the baby dose of Effexor. And 300 mg. is a baby dose of Neurontin, which is a very cool drug sometimes referred to as a "brain hormone". Woot! Taken in larger doses, it's an anti-epileptic drug, an anticonvulsant, but just take a tiny bit and it's like oil for your brain. Double-woot!

As a result of these medications I'm sane and happy. Before a shrink put me on them I was literally crazed all the time. There was always this wild feeling inside me, so big that I never knew what to do with it. I think in large part it's what caused me to drink and drug throughout my early years. It was an attempt to tamp down the wild thing.

But the day after I was put on these drugs, the very next day, the out-of-control feeling was gone and it has never come back. There was indeed a silver bullet for me, contrary to everything I was ever told by a medical professional. This has had a miraculous effect on my life, completely altering its quality and trajectory. I'm not subject to that constant, maddening, craziness anymore. It was -- and is -- such a relief. It's like I was always in a room with screaming people -- and suddenly they fell silent. Such peace! And Effexor doesn't turn you into a contented cow like Prozac does. Dog forbid! You keep your personality with Effexor and just lose the craziness. Sweet deal.

Now, I might not have brought all this up today but it's the intro for what I really want to say. Lately, many science news stories have reported that SSRIs make the brain more "plastic". In other words, the drugs enable the brain to grow new connections and hook up new skills centers. You've probably read about the brain's plasticity. It's how people with strokes recover -- other parts of their brains learn to do the things the damaged parts used to handle. So it's no small news that SSRIs apparently make the brain more plastic.

Which brings me to my point: I started writing fiction when I was 60 after I began taking these drugs. I don't think that's a coincidence. Something new is happening in my brain and it's responsible for me becoming a fiction writer. If I wasn't put on these medications, there probably would be no Xmas Carol, no Worlds Trilogy. And chances are, the blog you're reading wouldn't exist. Poof.

Just saying. And if the first link I provided didn't convince you, have a gander at this article at physorg. SSRIs expand your brain's horizons (and make you write books). Very cool.


Artichoke Annie said...

Maybe these drugs disclosures should not be limited to authors only. If we all wore a tag it would be mind boggling. On the other hand it might explain some people actions or perhaps the need to be on something.

writenow said...

You're right. I'd love to know what the GOP are on. I'll bet it's a really scary mix.