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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hallucinations, agitation and drugs that help

Riley was in the Navy submarine service for more than 25 years. He served aboard the USS Shark which was a sister ship of the USS Scorpion. The Scorpion went down near the Azores and was never recovered. The cause of the event was never exactly determined. But, the crew members of the Shark felt an uncanny connection to those who served and lost their life aboard the Scorpion.

About a year ago, Riley was having severe panic attacks and hallucinations about incidents that happened to him aboard submarines. He was clearly terrified of “going down with the ship.” These dreams, hallucinations, images, whatever, would last for days. There was no sleep because he was screaming out for help. He didn’t know who I was and didn’t understand how I got there.

We tried drugs of all sorts, but nothing was making a dent in giving us some relief. Finally, our nurse practioner found us the answer. She spent hours doing research and had many conversations with our pharmacist. Then she sat down with and explained why nothing had worked so far.

The drugs we had been administering to Riley all had the same chemical components as alcohol.
Instead of calming down, he was getting agitated much the same as he would if he had been drinking. We switched him to Seroquel and he calmed right down. He stopped screaming out and actually got some solid sleep. The entire house got some sleep.

Attivan is the “go to” drug for alcoholics in detox. It is the same drug as Lorazepam. I don’t understand all the chemical compound stuff because I don’t have a scientific mind. All I know is what worked for us. Ativan had always worked well whenever Riley was in detox. It seemed strange to me that it was not working for the hallucinations.

After a lengthy explanation, complete with little drawings of formulas, I was still confused. I understood the concept and the rationale, but I was lost on the drawings.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we found something that really helped.

That was then. This is now. The recent UTI has caused a re-start of the delusions and confusion in Riley World. He’s back on the submarine, fighting for his life. I believed there was no use in trying those other drugs because they had not worked for me in the past.

I decided to try one of the drugs that claim to resolve agitation. My choice was Haldol. Getting him to take the drug took some manipulation since he now believes that I’m trying to kill him. But, I got him to take it and after about 10 long minutes, the drug took effect. It was glorious. Peace and quiet. He was relaxed and fell asleep. Haldol was one of the drugs that did not work previously, but now it does.

I imagine that it is possible that our bodies change over the course of time and our needs change as well. What wasn’t working before is working now. It was so ingrained in my mind to NOT use some of the old drugs that I didn’t even consider it. Thank goodness I stepped outside my wheelhouse and took the chance on going backwards.

My point, I promise I have one, is that if what you are doing in caretaking your end-stage alcoholic person is not working, try something else. Take a step back and try what may have worked at one time but stopped. Try a different drug, Ativan, Haldol, Seroquel, or any other that may be available. Talk to your pharmacist and he/she may have some suggestions you never thought about.

I know most of you who are reading this are not at this stage in the alcoholic’s life. Do not give these drugs to actively drinking alcoholics. This is one of those little tidbits of information that you may find useful in the future.

As for Riley, the antibiotics have not resolved (yet) his UTI issues. But, we keep trying different things to ease his pain and give him some rest. This is life (or the ending of life) in the world of the end-stage alcoholic.

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