Wednesday, November 2, 2011
There's a pill for that...
Back in the 60s, I lived at the edge of
and many of my friends were students at the university. It was a wild time. Free love whenever and with whomever. Free flowing drugs such as “grass” and “acid”. Wine was consumed at a higher rate than water. Peace rallies and sit-ins. The establishment of disestablismentarianism. Those were the days, my friend. Berkeley
For me, it was a very short time of reckless abandon. After all, I had a baby and a job. While my friends could simply skip a class, I had responsibilities. So while my friends were tokin’ on whatever, I had a couple glasses of wine and then saw to it everyone got home OK. I was the watchkeeper – the caretaker. I was one of the very few who can say, I was there, I was involved and I never participated in any of the drug experimentation.
It’s a funny thing about drugs. Most are designed to help us get though whatever medical issue we are facing and even cure certain ailments. Others are designed to generate a feeling of living in a different world – much like the “acid” of the 60s. They create a fantasy world and the only one inside the world is the user of the drug. Sometimes that fantasy world is much more desirable than the real one.
Alcohol is a drug. It may not be in pill form, but it is still a drug that gives the user and altered point of view. It can make them feel invincible, intelligent, sexy, strong and in control. The truth is they may already be all those things without the alcohol, but they just don’t believe it. The alcohol makes them feel good. When they become hooked the way out is unpleasant – detox, rehab – and believing the truth that they really are good people without the alcohol and monsters with the alcohol – is sometimes impossible to get the alcoholic to accept.
Over the years, drugs have been developed to aid alcoholics in their quest for a way out of the addiction. I think Riley has tried them all.
After Riley’s first rehab center (compliments of the Navy), he started taking Antabuse. This was the first medication approved by the USFDA in the treatment of alcohol abuse. It creates a negative reaction to drinking alcohol, so in effect it is aversion therapy. If alcohol is consumed while taking Antabuse, the alcoholic will be physically ill. I believe the most common is vomiting.
Riley is a smart guy who hates being sick in any manner. After leaving the rehab center he was required to report back to the center each and every morning for his daily dose of Antabuse. He could then proceed on to his duty station for a regular work day. It all sounded good in theory. But it didn’t take long for Riley to “outwit” the counselors at the center.
After taking his daily dose, Riley would proceed to the bar just outside the base gates. He then downed a couple of shots of scotch, go to the men’s room and vomit it up along with the Antabuse. He was then able to drink the rest of the day without incident.
The next venture into drugs for the cure of alcoholism was Campral. There has been great success with this drug which was approved by the USFDA in 2004. Campral works in the brain to restore a chemical balance. It suppresses the craving for alcohol. I have a reader who has achieved great success with this drug and after several years of use, has no desire for alcohol at all. It isn’t that he’s able to refuse the alcohol – he simply does not want it. Impressive. I say we should spike the water supply with the stuff! But… wait a minute… that may not work.
Riley was at end-stage and a last ditch effort to cure his addiction lay in the hands of an addictionologist that I had found through a family doctor. Riley was told he could continue to drink, but to take the Campral and for me to keep track of how much he was drinking. Over a period of three months, I did see a slight decrease in his consumption. But it was too little too late for Riley. He ended up in ICU and once again just barely avoided the grasp of the grim reaper.
After his release from the hospital and the nursing facility (he chose not to go to rehab), I asked if he wanted to resume the Campral as a safety measure. His answer was an absolute NO. In the most sober mind that I had seen in him in years, he declared that he did not want to be sober and if Campral would make him sober he didn’t want it.
Additionally, during the time he was taking the Campral, he was also taking Lactulose which is used in the treatment of constipation is a manmade sugar that pulls water into the colon. The addicitionologist told me that it would help move the toxins from his brain and make Riley easier to deal with when he was antagonistic. During the three months he took the laxative, Riley was even more antagonistic. He didn’t like the laxative effect because he could not make it to the toilet quick enough. He refused to wear depends and results were unpleasant for everyone. Riley fought taking the liquid and threw temper tantrums when I told him it was time for him to take it.
There are other drugs out there that claim to aid in recovery of alcohol addiction. Such as Naltrexone which blocks that “high” feeling that are obtained from alcohol consumption. USFDA approved a once-a-month injectible form of the drug. The regimine is about a year long.
During his “sober” period, I suggested that Riley might want to give this drug a try. But, once again, he told me that if it would prevent him from “feeling” the way he feels when drinking – he would not want to take it. Riley drinks for the effect of the alcohol. He doesn’t want to stop and lose that effect.
In my opinion, these drugs probably DO work for people who truly want them to work. But there is always the same caveat – they MUST WANT to stop drinking. Riley gets some reward from staying drunk. It doesn’t matter what the reward is, it exists for him. To live without that reward is not acceptable for him. He does not WANT to stop drinking. It is very difficult to argue with his logic especially when the logic is expressed during a time when his brain is the least alcohol saturated.
Just as I did in the 60s, I am the watchman – the caretaker. I watch Riley deteriorate. I take care that he does not cause outsiders any harm. This is my role. I know it well. I don’t live in Riley’s fantasy world. Even if I were invited in, I would decline the invitation.
at 9:04 AM