Tracking Medications and Drugs
This is part 4 of the tutorial on how to use Better Mood Tracker to track events in your life. This article focuses on things that people use to influence their body and mind in a controlled manner. From dietary supplements, to prescription and illicit drugs. You can track it all
Side effects of medications
Are you surprised? Medications have side effects, and any prescription drug that you get at a local Pharmacy comes with multiple pages of side effects, potential drug interactions and warnings about alcohol, etc. With the Better mood Tracker, you can track both the good and bad side effects of medications.
Let’s say you are taking prescription medications, and are actively aware that you have no side effects, because you monitor for them. Then, all of the sudden you pick up a new vitamin off the shelf of a local Walmart, because it promises “increased energy”. And suddenly you stuff you were warned about starts to happen. The side effects from the prescription warning label are appearing in your life.
What to do? With better mood tracker, you can actively track both minor (headache, nausea, diarrhea) and major symptoms that you may experience. If you know that you started to experience a symptom at a particular point in the past, it may be a good idea to discuss the supplements or lifestyle changes that occurred at that time with your doctor. Maybe together you can figure out what it is exactly that is causing the side effect to occur, so you can continue taking prescription medications while enjoying better quality of life.
Effects of supplements or drugs
Umm. 60% of all bipolar patients have tried drugs in their lifetime. This simple statistic means that the topic of drugs, both illicit, dietary supplements and various “nootrpics” cannot be swept under the rug. These things must be tracked and analyzed in the content of the person’s overall well being.
It is widely accepted that a wide variety of drugs, from amphetamines to LSD affect various neurotransmitter systems in the brain. You know, Serotonin,Dopamine, Choline and Adrenaline. The 4 things that make your body tick. They are all connected. They make you who you are. One of the major reasons for recreational drug use is that it modifies these systems and makes the person feel a stunning variety of effects.
But what happens if the person’s mood system is already malfunctioning, and the body has trouble maintaining a proper outlook on life? In such cases, the innocent sounding “may exacerbate existing or latent conditions” sentence comes to life. If for a normal person it may take a day or two to settle in, then for a person with a “condition” it may take a week. Without mood tracking, you may only be vaguely aware that something is happening. But if you take a look at your mood log (or a gaping 7 day hole with no records), it becomes more apparent.
With Better Mood Tracker you may track the effect of various substances, all labeled as “drugs or medicines” on your system. You can understand if there is a hangover associated with use, and realistically evaluate the effects on your health. If a night of fun results in a week of wild mood swings, maybe it’s not worth it.
But illicit drugs are only part of the equation. Common “energy drinks”, “protein shakes”, and even vitamins may have affect on your system. What form will “increased energy” take form? Without tracking, it is very hard to evaluate the effect of adding a dietary supplement that promises to “give you wings”, but leaves you experiencing a wild crash later in the day. What does that crash feel like? Track and find out.
Here’s how you may track your body’s response to external substances that you introduce for pleasure or because of expected beneficial effect.
For a single use (I will use a Red Bull energy drink as an example).
- Always track the event’s time of consumption
- Track when you start to notice the onset effects. For example, red bull promises increased energy.
- Notice when the effects noticeably subside.
- Track your bedtime by using the sleep tracker. Remember to power up your device.
- Track your sleep onset – when did it happen? Did you spend half the night awake?
- Notice your awakening time the next day – is it past your regular bedtime?
- Track your moods, activity and sleep for the next 4 days for evidence of hangover or residual effects.
Sleep is a very complicated thing, but when sleep happens, you know that your body’s internal balance has been restored. At least some things are working properly again. But if your sleep is disrupted, then you know that you are still experiencing, at least residual effects of whatever it is that you have consumed. Additionally, your body’s Circadian rhythm is a ~24 hour pattern of activity within your body. This is why some residual effects will not manifest themselves, until 24 hours have passed, and some processes start to occur again.
Now you have some data about how your body responds to the substance. And I emphasize that the substance can be anything, from “harmless” energy drink to illicit drugs. With data, you can estimate how long the substance was in your body and how long it took to get out of your system.
Here’s what you need to know about anything that you takes that has an effect on your cognition.
- Total duration of effect, including aftereffects
- Time until initial effect is felt
- “Plateau” time – an interval of time when the effects are felt most strongly
- Time of “Coming down” – when to expect rapid diminishing of effects
- Time of onset and duration of any acute “crash” that may be associated with the substance
- Duration of aftereffects (hangovers, etc).
- Effect on Sleep
For example, if a Red Bull works for you for 13 hours, maybe you should think twice about taking it at 7PM, as it may easily keep you up until 8AM. If it is not your intention to stay up that late, then you should adjust your plans.
For over-time use of supplements, you can do the following. Let’s say you opened a new bottle of dietary supplement that promises to increase cognition and reaction time.
- Mark when you opened the bottle with a distinct marker (from the miscellaneous section)
- Track days when you take the supplement.
- Track general effects on cognition on days when you take the supplement
- As discussed in the section above, track side effects
- If you abruptly stop, monitor the following week for changes in your mood, energy, or attitude towards life
- If the changes are too dramatic, then consider gradually reducing the intake, or remember to re-purchase the supplement.
When I first noticed that “harmless” dietary supplements and energy drinks can make me have trouble concentrating upon discontinuation of use, I was baffled. Imagine having trouble writing a coherent sentence in a journal or having mental fog. Tying these to a specific event in you lifestyle would help you better understanding how “harmless” and “over the counter” supplements may affect your brain, mood and energy levels.
Timing of biological events
Ever since I found out that I can detect dreaming, but am powerless to influence it with the lucid dreaming app, I’ve been interested in the biology of the human brain. At the moment, I’m an amateur scientist, but I hope to improve.
Part of the reason why I’m so hopeful for the Better Mood Tracker is that it allows me to collect complex data about my lifestyle. I can time, and have a log of the timing involved in various systems within my body and brain.
For example, I feel very sleepy following a large carbohydrate rich meal, like mashed potatoes and peas. This produces a strong urge to take a nap. I can monitor the time from the middle of consumption until the sleepiness onset.
Naps that follow this sleepiness are very different from my regular nighttime sleep. I can lay in one position for 2 hours, and feel great. My muscles are warm, and my eyes get bloodshot. I do not know what this is, but I can time this.
I can time how long it takes for my body to digest various foods.