Sunday, August 22, 2004

Playing with Chemistry

Why would a previously beneficial medication suddenly stop working?

It's a question several women on my listserv have asked. After about 18 months, they see a recurrence of symptoms. To my knowledge, this phenomenon is not well studied. But it happens.

I have a theory on this. I think that people who are a bit off—whether it's anxiety or psychotic hallucinations—have the wrong homeostatic code programmed in their heads. When a doctor gives a person Prozac, it works for awhile, but their brain believes something is wrong and starts shutting down seratonin production in an attempt to reinstate a faulty balance.

How can medical science battle the brain's attempts to help itself?

How does homeostasis work anyway? I mean, does the heart regulate itself so that it doesn't explode? Nope.

So why would the brain have its own regulatory system? It's infinitely more complex...that's for sure. And survival is largely dependent upon emotional stability. After all, we can't all believe we're invincible or hear voices or see things that aren't there.

It's all about checks and balances. All of us feel outraged, or in love, or nervous. But some of us lack the ability to quell the reverberations normal emotions generate in the brain. It's like watching someone toss a stone into a pond. The ripples go out, but in an alternate reality, they bump off the shore of the lake and create waves that rise higher and higher. What eventually calms the waves is a mystery. But putting up a breaker wall only makes them smaller. It doesn't create a normal response to the stimulus.

Does that make any sense?