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The medications that change who we are


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Very interesting indeed, Gordo. I guess it stands to reason. The brain is not an organ that is disconnected from the body. It seems not impossible that a drug that affects the body might affect the brain, since it's all part of an interconnected dynamic system, and our personalities might be affected - we do know that psychotropic drugs do so, so why not other kinds of drugs, or perhaps even diet to some degree. 

FWIW, I myself have not noticed any effect of the statin I'm taking on my personality, but perhaps that's hard to do, however, nobody else has remarked on it either, so odds are that if there are any changes, they are not dramatic enough to be immediately noticeable. I wonder if it's dose dependant - I take 10mg of atorvastatin which is a relatively lowish dose. 

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The way the article is written it makes it sound like the problem isn't the statins themselves, but the absolute level of cholesterol, whether that is achieved by artificially lowering it through statins or through a low cholesterol diet like the one I'm on. But that is not 100% clear to me. I'd love to read the full text of some of the studies linked to, like this one for example, although I worry I don't have the right background to fully understand it even if I did have access to the full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9499332

Practically speaking, I'm wondering if I might feel differently or notice a difference if I deliberately raised my cholesterol now that I know what to look for or focus on. I don't remember any personality changes, but I wasn't on the outlook for them.

But it seems complicated. As far as I can tell none of these studies really look at the issue directly in humans. They are patching a bunch of things together (some individual cases seem to show a connection, statins/low cholesterol may cause low serotonin, low serotonin is linked to violence, depression, irritability, etc.) It would be nice to directly study low cholesterol diets in humans and see this behavioral changes emerge. Is there any study that has actually done this?

Given that the body makes its own cholesterol, I'm wondering if it might be perfectly fine to be on a low cholesterol diet and that if you have some of these symptoms it is more a matter of something else going wrong that is preventing your body from making the optimal levels of cholesterol you need. Adding more cholesterol through diet might just be masking a different problem at the root. But I'm not sure how you would tell if your body is making "enough" or what might cause it to make too little?

Edited by Thomas G
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But Golomb’s most unsettling discovery isn’t so much the impact that ordinary drugs can have on who we are – it’s the lack of interest in uncovering it. “There’s much more of an emphasis on things that doctors can easily measure,” she says, explaining that, for a long time, research into the side-effects of statins was all focused on the muscles and liver, because any problems in these organs can be detected using standard blood tests.

This is something that Dominik Mischkowski, a pain researcher from Ohio University, has also noticed. “There is a remarkable gap in the research actually, when it comes to the effects of medication on personality and behaviour,” he says. “We know a lot about the physiological effects of these drugs – whether they have physical side effects or not, you know. But we don't understand how they influence human behaviour.”


I can believe there is less interest in evaluating side effects difficult to measure such as psychological impacts of medications.  And considering how much drug research is carried out by pharmaceutical companies one might ask how much incentive have they had to find these side effects?

Even when side effects are known they are commonly over looked.  I have a muscle wasting disease the severity of which is correlated to insulin resistance and yet several physicians have suggested statins to me despite myopathy and increased risk of type 2 diabetes being significant side effects.   Considering a large percentage of men with my disease die young from weakness related things such as pneumonia, choking and falls or from the comorbidiities of type 2 diabetes and only a moderate percentage make it to ages where heart disease is a common cause of death makes me question the thoughtfulness or the priorities of the US medical system.

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