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Mefloquine Poisoning

Sheridan Taylor

In which our hero talks about a fairly unknown reason people display mental illness symptoms and suffer needlessly.

Here’s a fun little twist. I might’ve gone so fucking bananas because my government poisoned me. Perhaps knowingly, perhaps not knowing for sure but not caring, which amounts to the same thing. So that’s a real kick in the fucking teeth. I’m going to talk about it here, because mefloquine (Lariam) is a possible reason some people struggle with mental illness.

Not just service members; anybody who’s taken mefloquine might be struggling. If you can’t figure out why you’ve battling your brain, you can’t figure out any genetic or environmental factors for it, maybe this is it? Like any other form of poisoning, you might’ve ingested something harmful to you.

I would’ve gone nuts no matter what, don’t get me wrong. Those seeds were planted way before I enlisted. But it’s very likely my country gave them water and fertilizer. For serving said country. For volunteering to die for said country. For being a good citizen and good little soldier.

There’s a lot of really smart people with degrees, saying mefloquine is the direct cause of long-term neuropsychiatric issues fucking up vets. Not just Canadian vets, either; British vets, American vets, Australian vets. The British government apologized to its’ soldiers for giving them mefloquine. The Australian government is being sued by its’ soldiers. So is the Canadian government. This is what our nation has become. It’s being sued by its’ defenders because it poisoned them with a drug that drives people insane.

Troops were reporting from 1992 about psychiatric issues from the drug. The Canadian government didn’t listen. It wasn’t until the early 2010s that serious study was conducted. They proved severe episodes of anxiety, depression, hallucinations, mood changes, bad or vivid dreams, agitation, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior, panic attacks, paranoia, persecutory delusions, amnesia, and psychosis came with using mefloquine. Interesting, no? Symptoms of mefloquine intoxication and of PTSD look real similar to me.

The European Medicines Agency says there’s sufficient evidence to prove mefloquine causes permanent neuropsychiatric reactions The World Health Organization recommends people with personal or family history of psychiatric disorders not take mefloquine. The scientific community says people with conditions like depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, or other major psychiatric disorders shouldn’t take mefloquine.

War, peace-keeping, and disaster assistance response, etc. create mental conditions that set service members up for mental illness. But even people genetically prone to a mental illness wouldn’t necessarily struggle under other conditions, but they create the circumstances for illness to occur. It’s the perfect set-up. Send people into situations where they’re almost guaranteed to struggle with mental illness and trauma, if they weren’t prior, then trick them into taking a drug people struggling with mental illness and trauma should never take! Pretty fucking sick and twisted, huh?

I would’ve had struggles with mental illness regardless. But this drug probably made it worse. It might not have been as bad as it became. Who knows? It is what is, but it didn’t have to become what it did, y’know?

Health Canada implicitly recognizes the connection between mefloquine and its long-term adverse results. They put this warning on the label (five times!): “neuropsychiatric reactions (e.g. depression, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, or loss of balance) may continue for months or years after discontinuation of mefloquine, and permanent vestibular damage has been seen.” Health Canada also had this put on the label: “if signs of acute anxiety, depression, restlessness or confusion occur, these may be considered prodromal to a more serious event.”

The American FDA says side effects like anxiety, paranoia, depression, or hallucinations can happen at any time taking the drug, and could last for years after stopping. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law studied mefloquine. They found case reports indicate mefloquine intoxication starts by presenting with change in personality, uneasiness, new phobias, feelings of coming doom and impatience. It gets progressively worse with every dose. (This shit starts after taking the first dose! We took that shit for months.)

Turns out mefloquine intoxication starts in the limbic system and worsens what we recognize as stress injuries and mental illness. We’ve talked about how the limbic system, especially the amygdala and hippocampus, affect us and can go from our protection systems to our biggest obstacle in recovering from trauma.

My government made me take a drug guaranteed to make me deeply mentally ill. Either of those things happening compound mental illness, but both combined? I’m not whining and bitching, here. I’m explaining something that happened to me. Maybe it happened to you, too. If it did, and you couldn’t figure out why you’ve been struggling, now you know. Doesn’t excuse your behaviour, but might explain it.