I suffered a great deal of trauma several years ago and came out of it a wreck. Without getting into the story, I’ll share the symptoms:
Paranoid. Distrusting of everyone. Incredibly angry. Genuinely scared for my life. Completely alone. Always on high alert. Usually screaming about something to the point of making my hernia pop out.
Today I take an injection for schizophrenia called Invega. It’s a monthly shot and costs about $2,500 each time I get it, according to my provider.
The cost estimate sounds about right. I looked the medication up on Drugs.com. That site lists the cost from $521 to $3,078 per shot depending on the dose. Medicaid pays entirely for my shot.
To make a long story short, I ended up in jail after a tussle with police over a camping violation almost two years ago. From jail I was transferred to the state mental hospital in Pueblo, where I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. I spent six months in the state mental hospital.
Untreated schizophrenia leads to homelessness
I ended up homeless due to my untreated schizophrenia. It’s the first time I ever had suffered a mental breakdown to that degree. But there had been others through the years.
I have my bachelor’s degree from a highly selective Lutheran liberal arts college, Augustana in Illinois. I always have worked in great news media jobs at large organizations, from reporter to managing editor and everything in between.
I mention all of this because a new study came out about my injection today. It explained that people with schizophrenia have 20 times the suicide rate of most people. College-educated men in particular are at risk, especially after their first episode.
“Risk factors for suicide in this population include being young, male, and highly educated,” according to an original investigation published Wednesday in Journal of the American Medical Association. “Illness-related risk factors include prior suicide attempts, depressive symptoms, active positive symptoms, and comorbid substance misuse.
"Effective treatment delivery and adherence are vital for suicide prevention in schizophrenia. Compared with oral antipsychotics, long-acting injectable antipsychotics were reported to improve treatment adherence in patients with schizophrenia.”
No longer scared of everything
I receive my Invega shot every three weeks. My provider through Colorado Coalition for the Homeless comes to my apartment and gives it to me.
It’s a whole lot easier than remembering to take medication every night. I also have found that weight gain has not been a significant problem with Invega. The opposite is true with the oral antipsychotics. Weight gain can be so severe patients refuse to take their medication. My doctor put me on metformin to mitigate any weight gain.
I have battled mental illness since my late twenties. Never have I felt as stable as I do now on Invega. My mood is level and I’m not angry or scared anymore. I am thinking about jumping on the bus and going places again.
I no longer am homeless. I work full-time and pay rent just like everybody else. I credit Invega for a lot of my success, but I have worked hard, too.
I know several people who would like to try the Invega shot based on the success I have seen with it. A study in China showed the drug even helped people stop using methamphetamines.
But Medicaid won’t pay for the injection unless you have a schizophrenia diagnosis, numerous providers have told me.
Invega really does save lives
The study published Wednesday in JAMA again showed the medication’s value. “In this study, the use of long-acting injectables was associated with significantly lower risks of all- and natural-cause mortality and suicide attempts than was the use of oral antipsychotics after adjusting for covariates.
"Regarding the benefits of early use of long-acting injectables, patients who switched to long-acting injectables within the first two years of oral antipsychotic initiation had a 47 percent decrease in the suicide mortality risk compared with those who continued receiving oral antipsychotics.”
Those who took long-lasting injectables had significantly lower suicide risk than the group taking the oral antipsychotics. “Here, the long-acting injectables group had a 34 percent lower all-cause and a 37 percent lower natural-cause mortality risk than did the oral antipsychotic group.
“These results are in line with those of previous large observational cohort studies and meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials, in which receiving long-acting injectables was associated with lower mortality than was receiving oral antipsychotics.”