Our group is not a ‘drug circle’: It’s a lifeline

The sharing of anti-depressants is nothing new.

anti-depressants CUSU drug sharing prescription drugs WomCam

The recent scandal over the Cambridge self-help group has left some in shock. Some women have used the group to ask members for prescription drugs, causing controversy.

We’ve all read the articles. We’ve all discussed with our friends and peers whether this is appropriate, or if its exposure was called for. Of yet, nobody’s sought to explain why somebody would ask others for prescription medication, specifically antidepressants, where else it happens, and why it’s not shocking.

Every day, I take 200mg of Sertraline – a prescription anti-depressant. I’ve done so for the last 3 years, ever since I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD. This decision was made for me by my psychotherapist, psychiatrist, and other professionals at the time. The medication was initially taken in addition to sedatives and sleeping pills, as well as different daily forms of therapy.

Anybody who’s been prescribed anti-depressants will understand the difficulty in beginning them. I started by taking 25mg a day, working my way up to the maximum dosage of 200mg, over a period of six months. The first month of side effects included nausea, vomiting, anxiety, shaking and paranoia. These are similar to the withdrawal symptoms I experience when I am without my medication for more than 24 hours.

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Common antidepressants and their side effects.

Having received this treatment for a year, my medical insurance ran out, meaning I couldn’t receive my prescriptions. I had to quickly find a new way of obtaining my daily prescription without my psychiatrist: something which more difficult than you’d expect. I went to my local GP to explain the situation. In order to receive my prescription, I had to explain to a stranger ‘why’ I was mentally ill. Of course, it’s understandable that a doctor would ask this of me, but it was difficult.

Fast forward to my first year at Cambridge, and I have to find a new GP. Now when I ask for my prescriptions I have to go more regularly. I don’t have a regular GP in Cambridge, as I always ask for the next available appointment in order to receive my medication. I need it promptly, so I can keep on top of my degree. I detest going to the GP. It’s a horrible experience to have to explain why I need this prescription to a different person every few weeks, but the alternative is far worse. So I suck it up.

I’ve been in a couple of situations where I’ve run out of medication without realising, just in time for the withdrawal symptoms to set in. This is difficult in any situation. Imagine going through withdrawal symptoms while studying in such an intense environment. It’s passed GP opening hours, I have a deadline that cannot feasibly be completed, and I refuse to use my illness as an excuse.

Here’s a situation where I would ask another person for a dose of my anti-depressant.

Are you really going to tell me that I shouldn’t? That it’s my fault? That I should deal with these debilitating symptoms? That I should fail to meet a deadline because of it?

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My worst nightmare

Women like me use this group as a source of support and love. These women have helped me through very low moments and applauded the tiniest of my successes. Yes, people in my position have asked for help with medication because they know the members to be loving and understanding people. I am a member of several support groups, others unaffiliated with Cambridge uni, and I’ve seen this happen in all of them.

Even in the wake of the exposure of our group and its consequences, our members continue to post and support each other. This will never stop.

The self-care group isn’t a ‘drug-circle’. It’s a lifeline. 

Disclaimer: this is only my personal account of experience with anti-depressants. The post does not represent the views of the group moderators.