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Medication and Drinking (Alcohol) - Carers UK Forum

Medication and Drinking (Alcohol)

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
Well, this is just a waffle really.
Let my introduce you to 'Luke', my 28year old son, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia since sitting his last exam at Uni. He has been in and out of hospital ever since, and has tried to take his own life many times, as he feels that he has to die, to save the World and the people in it.
He is not aggresive - only to himself and a lovely young man who suffers so much. He is now shutting himself off from the World because he can't cope with it.....and has started drinking far too much to block off the voices and noises in his head.
The problem is, I have told him that the alcohol will stop the medication working so well, therefore the problem won't get any better. Just lately he has forgotten to take his tablets with him when he goes to his Father's to stay.
In the past, I have told the Staff at the Unit which he is staying at, about it, but feel that I lost his trust for a while. I'm churning this over - do I ring and tell them what I think once more?
I dunno - I told you I was going to waffle!
I just hate to see him suffering so much.
Hi Pamela

As a Mother, you must be worried sick about Luke. I have not been in your postition, but as an outsider I would think that you have to ring the unit again with your concerns. Could you ask them not to say you have rung and it is just them checking up on Luke out of their own concern, therfore, not risking losing his trust again?

I hope that someone comes along who has more experience than me, I just don't like to think of you or Luke suffering.

Thinking of you both,
Blue xx
Hang on in there,
You know him better than anyone else,
do what your gut feelings tell you.
he needs help,
you need help.
Go all out and fight to get it.
I know I dont take my own advice, I cant, but If you can get help , go for it.
love x.
Self-medicating with alcohol is a surprisingly common means of dealing with mental distress, not least because the side-effects of medication can be unpleasant, so the MHU should really be looking out for this. The problem with using alcohol is that whilst it might numb your son's feelings for a while it is also a depressant.

Whether you should alert the MHU is a difficult question if it might impact on your relationship with your son but in your situation I think that I would discuss it with them, if he is self-medicating to avoid the side-effects of medication it could be that a change of medication would solve or reduce the problem. And I wonder if you have asked your son why he prefers alcohol to the medication which may give you a clue to the reason he is using it, alcohol and psychotropic medicines are never a good combination and it may be that the alcohol is potentiating the effect of the medication rather than stopping it working and increasing the side-effects if side-effects are the problem.

I wonder if the MHU has a family support/carers group for carers looking after family members with MH problems or whether your local carers centre has one, sometimes sharing these problems, which are quite common, and hearing how others have dealt with them can be helpful. You might also find some useful information on the Rethink, formerly the National Schizophrenic Fellowship which was originally set up to support families of people diagnosed with schizophrenia, website or forum and Rethink may have a local group for carers. The MIND website might prove useful too, they have a number of downloadable booklets and there might be one on the subject of self-medicating.

Whatever you do it will be for the right reasons, good luck.

I have to say thankyou to you all for your caring replies.....all of which are very valid......

Blue - .Luke's story is a very long and complex one, which I have been involved in since the beginning and up till just recently, have been involved with the reviews and day to day care, always taking my concerns to them (with Luke's knowledge). When I need to tell them something like this, the reply is always 'well, we must let Luke know that we are discussing him'. Yea, yea. So, I think that whatever I do, has to be with Luke's knowledge. Grrrrrr lol. Thankyou so much for your caring, Blue x

Butterfly - yes, you have hit it on the head and many times I have told the Doctors' that I know him probably better than anyone - although I may not know the disease as well as them! There came a time just recently (well, a couple of months ago) that the fight just seemed to go out of me. Suppose I've just gotta get up and start again! Maybe you could start taking your own advice, Butterfly? Care for yourself, like you've shown the care for me x

Annie - You're so right in all you say! I agree that the MHU should be more on top of this problem - but hey, guess what they do? If they suspect that their clients are drinking (on their property) they can discharge them. I'm not sure if they actually have, but it doesn't address the problem, eh? Unfortunately Luke drinks as he says the medication doesn't work well. Over the years he has tried about every one in the book and is now on Olanzapine. He tried one which did work quite well but he needed a blood test every week and when the results came back that his levels were going down dangerously, they stopped it! So, I suppose I'm back to the original problem - he drinks to top up the medication, but won't believe that the alcohol will conflict with the medication! x

Piscesmaid - thanks for your reply - you're right about drinking does sometimes help, but once he starts, I don't think he can stop - so do I add alcoholic to Schizophrenia? He drinks on average I suppose a bottle of wine and a couple of beers a night, but I can't be sure. Obviously when he stays at his Unit he doesn't drink at all. When he's there, the Staff make sure he takes his meds; it's just when he's staying at his flat! x

Phew, it's better to see things written down...oh, Annie - I have been in touch with the local Rethink for many years now - but find that it doesn't really meet my needs and has now lost the contract to one of our areas (not mine) so now ours has to run with just one worker who is snowed under with work! So, people, although I've been very long winded, I just want you to appreciate how you've helped, in letting me 'talk' my problems through and giving some lovely replies back!

I think that I WILL speak to the Staff, but will tell Luke that I am going to.

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just some opinion but i hope some of it helps-
alcohol is terrible with most mental illnesses and often people can end up alcoholics and dealing with illness so its very important to flag this up loud and clear cos if it rolls on it and gets a hold on him it will not be good- double the trouble!
If it is the medications not working then for him then he might need prn meds to top up what he has but maybe he also needs some talking therapies to help with symptoms rather than drowing htem out with alcohol. he should have this in place already really - but in reality waitinglists are huge for talkign therapy! has he been incontact with local hearin voices group.
Although we often feel and see so much of what is going on in our loved ones conditions - at some point the professionals insist they take responsibility for managing their illness- tough love i suppose and hard to do when really ill but when trying to live in communiity its their job to ask for help and work at stayin well. ( from my experience with bipolar this can take 10-15 years to be able to get to grips with!) so professionals may simply listen to your fears but unless he also asks for help you might get more frustrated at their lack of action.
We are well that due to the extreme nature of our condition not taking medications would be very serious indeed ( although this does happen in last few days of a high when all professionals know he is ill) and the new treatment order could be considered as we are so frequently sectioned that relapse prevention would give the services the authority to do this so are very careful to avoid this under the new Act as he hate hospital with a vengence. So we now get a depot injection when first home so there is no way we can avoid takin meds. He probably had clozapine before which works well but needs close monitring but maybe another type of med given by depot might be a compromise but some folks object to weekly or fortnightly injections.
Thankyou, too, Goose, for your comments. Actually, I hadn't even asked about giving him prn med. I might suggest that to the Staff when I speak with them. Yes, he sees a lady psychologist but I think doesn't get a lot from her. Stirs up all sorts of fears and feelings. Luke is not a very talkative chap - only when he has something to say (like his father) so this doesn't help at all as he won't ask for help or to talk things out with anyone! He has done the hearing voices group too, but says that makes him worse as it's a group of people and he thinks they're giving him 'messages' - so I get frustrated as I feel he is stonewalling every idea.
It was clozapine that he used before but unfortunately it's not an option now.
Image It's an idea that maybe he ought to go back to depot if he's staying out of hospital for a while - thanks for reminding me of that option.
Thanks once again for the comments x Image