By Olivier Ameisen Updated: As I came to my senses I took stock of where I was: I looked out the window. The church on the corner reminded me it was Sunday, and I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight. I asked the driver to take me to the casualty department at the New York hospital where I worked as a consultant. I wondered what on earth had happened.
Had the taxi braked suddenly so that I hit my head, or had I been injured in some other way before I hailed it? Dr Ameisen struggled with a deep sense of failure that only drinking relieved. Inside the emergency room, I passed out again. When I came to, one of my ex-students, Matt, now a doctor, was preparing to stitch the wound in my forehead. So as not to be left with a scar, I asked him to use surgical tape instead. He did and then left me to alchoholic pill antabuse quietly for a few hours so I could sober up enough to walk home safely.
He was plainly even more embarrassed to treat me in my drunken state than I was to need treatment. But the blackouts were getting more common, alchoholic pill antabuse, whole stretches of evenings expunged from my memory. I never did discover how it happened. As my drinking had increased, I had scrupulously honoured my first duty as a doctor - to do no harm.
I never worked when I was not completely sober. But the fact is, I was terrified of living without alcohol. Without it, I would be an anxious wreck. Despite the outward successes - at the very nadir of my alcoholism I was awarded the French Legion of Honour for services to medicine - I struggled with a deep sense of failure, alchoholic pill antabuse, and feared that alchoholic pill antabuse world would see that my accomplishments were nothing but a sham.
I was terrified of living without alcohol. Admitting my problem drinking to my friends and colleagues terrified me, too. I feared being ostracised, and since I felt that drinking should be under my control, I felt ostracism would be justified. Then one afternoon I bought a bottle of vodka. But when I awoke I was attached to several intravenous tubes and a urinary catheter.
One of my first alchoholic pill antabuse was Professor John Schaefer, alchoholic pill antabuse, an outstanding neurologist whom I knew very well and greatly admired. With matter-of-fact kindness and no hint of moral judgment, he explained that I had suffered multiple seizures, which had been controlled with intravenous Valium.
I had been kept heavily sedated for two days and I alchoholic pill antabuse continuing to receive Valium intravenously to treat acute withdrawal.
The seizures were so violent that they produced rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown in muscle tissue that is toxic to the kidneys and is measured by the level of CPKs - creatine phosphokinase isoenzymes - in the blood.
The same thing can happen to people who suffer from traumatic injuries a colleague told me that on seeing my chart in intensive care, he assumed I must have been in a massive car crash, because my CPKs were extraordinarily high. John shook his head. I know I should be able to control my drinking, but I have not succeeded so far.
One you will have to recover from, and then you will come back and work normally. I wondered if things would ever be normal again, alchoholic pill antabuse. One fact was clear and could no longer be denied: I had become an alcoholic.
They say alcoholism runs in families. But I was troubled by anxiety long before I became an alcoholic. I told all my doctors: My doctors alchoholic pill antabuse told me: Stop drinking and alchoholic pill antabuse anxiety will subside. When, alchoholic pill antabuse, much later, I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, I discovered this was a standard refrain.
I felt the same way, and my suspicion is that chronic physical uneasiness triggers addictive behaviour and then is exacerbated by this self-medication gone wrong. But my anxiety really took off in my 40s, when I went into private practice; for the first time in my working life I did not alchoholic pill antabuse a guaranteed income, and became increasingly concerned about my finances.
I worried about my age, and felt that time might be running out to marry and have children. Beyond that, alchoholic pill antabuse, I feared I would lose everything and become completely impoverished. I began to have paralysing panic attacks. And then unstoppable panic took over my whole being. I tried everything, from rehab to Prozac. I began increasing my intake of the drug that brought relief: Talk about a slippery slope. The more I drank to ease my anxiety, stave off panic alchoholic pill antabuse counter insomnia, alchoholic pill antabuse, the more I had to drink for the same effect.
I managed OK during the morning, but every afternoon the craving anti fungal essential oils alcohol welled up in me like a flood tide. I resisted for as long as I could, a day, two days, a week or more, but then it captured me and I binged.
I was an accident waiting to happen, alchoholic pill antabuse. When, in AugustI wound up in New York Hospital with acute withdrawal seizures that nearly killed me, it was devastating - and a great relief. Now I will get proper treatment and recover. Over the next three years I tried everything alchoholic pill antabuse rehab - eight times - to prescriptions for tranquillizers and anti-depressants such as Prozac. A psychiatrist I was seeing for alcohol dependency also prescribed Antabuse.
This blocks the liver from breaking down alcohol - if you drink you almost immediately alchoholic pill antabuse the nastiest symptoms of severe intoxication: Keep drinking and you could die. I also tried acupuncture and hypnotherapy, both of which had zero effect. I consulted a highly recommended specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy CBTto try to resolve the emotional experiences that triggered drinking.
He seemed more interested in turning me from a binge spirits drinker into a alchoholic pill antabuse wine drinker. I told every doctor and therapist I saw that my fundamental problem was anxiety. None took this seriously. But Joan, an old girlfriend, remembered it well - perhaps because she heard me talk about it more times than any doctor did, alchoholic pill antabuse.
A muscle relaxant to treat cravings of cocaine addicts? She sent me the article. When it arrived, I was in the middle of a huge binge and tossed it aside. I assume I spilled drink on it and the cleaning lady threw it away.
My life continued as before, a cycle of bingeing and hospital treatment. I asked Joan to track it down. This time, I was not intoxicated when it arrived, and I alchoholic pill antabuse with fascination about how scans conducted by the psychologist Dr Anna Rose Childress, an addiction researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, showed a remarkable quieting of brain activity in a cocaine addict who was taking baclofen to control spasms. The addict said this medication reduced his alchoholic pill antabuse substantially.
I did not want to get my hopes up too much, but I did wonder: Could baclofen help me stop drinking? Perhaps it could relax my chronic muscular and nervous tension, keep it from intensifying into chronic anxiety and panic, and thereby short-circuit the craving for alcohol to resolve that extreme distress.
After further research I was all the more eager to try baclofen. A number of studies in specialist journals suggested it worked to relieve anxiety and depression; one study even showed it reduced alchoholic pill antabuse craving for alcohol in rats.
But was it safe? I needed to talk to someone who actually prescribed it. This meant baclofen was probably used in neurology, and my colleague John Schaefer was a top neurologist. I feared he would say: But, Olivier, you must not try to be your own doctor. So when I called, I said: Over the next couple of months, I started taking baclofen, steadily increasing my dose to milligrams a day. The short-term results were remarkable, alchoholic pill antabuse. It relaxed my muscles completely and soy and hormones me a peaceful sleep - both things I had never experienced before.
It reduced my craving viagra with alcohol and food alcohol and enabled me to remain abstinent for longer periods between binges. But I still had binges - and with them came the blackouts and accidents. But I was in unknown territory, already taking six times the dose used in previous brief experiments with alcoholics. The greatest potential risk seemed to be the possibility that baclofen would relax my muscles so much that it would suppress respiration, and I might suffocate in my sleep.
I had no death wish so I struggled on. But in JanuaryI decided it was now or never: I had to take my treatment into my own hands. Based on animal studies, I decided that by increasing the dose gradually I could tolerate up to mg. At milligrams I went out with friends for tea.