Spotlight: Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

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You have no idea how much stress this piece of paper caused me

I know I’ve found it really interesting in the past to read what other people think about the medicines they’ve been prescribed, so I intend to go through some of my past pills in case it can be helpful.

**IMPORTANT: Please bear in mind this post details my personal experiences. Medicines can work in different ways for different people, so what works or doesn’t work for me may do the opposite for you**

I’m kicking off with olanzapine, alternatively known as Zyprexa. Up until this point, which was June 2013, my medications were either antidepressants or sleep aids, but since they hadn’t managed to raise my mood (which was considered dangerously low given my DSH frequency) my psychiatrist decided it was time to add on an antipsychotic.

And so we welcome olanzapine to the scene, initially prescribed at 5mg nightly alongside 60mg fluoxetine (Prozac). It certainly improved my sleep, but I’d been warned about potential weight gain (the psychiatrist said he’d heard of people gaining over 80kg on this med), and I quickly found out why.

I noticed two changes: my appetite increased, and I rarely felt full even when I knew my stomach must have been full to the point of bursting. I felt driven to eat all the time and began to binge frequently, which was particularly uncomfortable as weight has always been a sensitive issue for me. Initially I coped by upping my exercise regime and telling myself that the increased hunger wasn’t real (and so could be ignored), but it didn’t last. My appetite pushed beyond the limits of my control; I was eating at every opportunity I had, and I’m ashamed to say I experimented with purging. On top of that, despite feeling guilty about bingeing my drive to exercise waxed and waned with my mood, which was perhaps unsurprisingly travelling south. I talked to my GP and my dose was lowered to 2.5mg, but when this didn’t decrease my appetite and lowered my mood further it was bumped up to 7.5mg.

A few weeks later I decided to stop taking olanzapine, reasoning that the appetite change and associated stresses weren’t worth the improved sleep and non-existent mood lift. My GP and psychiatrist didn’t approve and were quick to point out that I was noticeably more ‘agitated’ and tired, but I felt such a strong sense of relief when I regained control of my appetite and although my sleep suffered, I’ve been pretty confident that I made the right call.

Summary

Doses (daily): 5mg, 2.5mg, 7.5mg

Positive effects: While taking olanzapine I slept like a log, which was a relief after months of getting very little sleep each night.

Negative effects: Significant potential for substantial weight gain given hugely increased appetite and reduced ability to feel full.

Conclusion: Olanzapine did not improve my mood, and arguably worsened it via the stresses it caused me through the appetite-related side effects. I won’t be taking it again, and although I miss the improved sleep, it makes a lot more sense to take something like zopiclone alongside an antidepressant.

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One thought on “Spotlight: Olanzapine (Zyprexa)

  1. Pingback: the normal ones | Life of Evana

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