Also known as Melleril, this is the brand name (in England) of thioridazine. It's an antipsychotic (or major tranquilizer) similar to Thorazine and Stelazine, although a lower potency. As the name suggests, mellaril has a sedative effect. It is also used to stop those with schizophrenia from hallucinating. A Good Thing, clearly, as schizophrenia is a nasty illness, and still considered a stigma, although it is now treatable, and despite the fact that we crazies are much more likely to harm ourselves than others. Mellaril is also a lot gentler than many major tranks, and less likely to kill you than thorazine.

Common side-effects are: lethargy, low blood pressure, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, weight gain, difficulty urinating or stiffness. Lethargy, stiffness, dry mouth, weight gain and constipation are in the "see a doctor if severe" category; the others are all "see a doctor".

Rarer side effects are: Dizziness, racing heartbeat/palpitations, weakness, sexual problems, restlessness, skin rash, seizures, low white blood cell count, tremors, involuntary facial/tongue movements, reduced urinary output, chest pain or breathlessness. You should stop taking the drug and see a doctor immediately if you experience chest pain, odd hearbeat, breathlessness, skin rash (could be a sign of an allergy; these tend to get worse, not better. It could be anaphylactic shock next time) or seizures. You should see a doctor fast, though not necessarily stop taking mellaril, if you experience reduced pissing or low white blood cell count (how do you tell?).

The nastier side-effects include neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which appears to be to anti-psychotics what toxic shock syndrome is to tampons, except that, unlike TSS, it's not on the warning label; and tardive dyskinesia, which is probably single-handedly responsible for the image of twitching mental patients.

Harmful interactions can include antacids containing magnesium and aluminium, anti-histamines, tricyclic antidepressants, sedatives, barbiturates, vaso-dilators, muscle relaxants, narcotics and anaesthetics.

Mellaril should not be taken if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.

It shows up in Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation, when doctors are experimenting with using it as an antidepressant. In England, it comes in little white pills.

It is difficult to overdose on (one of the main reasons it was prescribed to me), and taking the entire packet (depends, of course, on size of packet and dosage of pills) will most likely knock you out for a few days, but that's all.

In Prozac Nation, Wurtzel describes being on mellaril for the first time: "Pink and white, in my opinion, have never been so pink and white before". Believe me when I say this is true. Typical quote from me on mellaril was: "There's a bloooooo bit in the skyyyyyyyyyyy and it's mooooooooooooving." However, the patient becomes tolerant to this after a few doses, if they experience it at all; after that, you just become a sleep-crazed zombie.

Much as I see how being non-psychotic is a good thing, it seems to me that psychiatrists are allowed to prescribe this drug with far too much impunity. I would defend psychotropic medication as something which can save someone's life, but dispensing major tranks at the drop of a hat is different. It is far too easy for doctors to prescribe these because a patient is pissing them off, questioning their judgement or they just plain want the patient on drugs, and non-OD-able ones are preferable. However, antispychotics have some nasty side-effects. Tardive dyskinesia, for a start. Those crazies twitching uncontrollably? That's not the illness. That's the treatment. It will also affect one-fifth of patients who take it for more than a year, and is often irreversible. And, unlike, ooh, say, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, it's not even fatal. Therefore, while it would create extra beaurocracy, I do consider that doctors should be made accountable when prescribing such drugs.