Drug Induced Seizures -an Update

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(from BP Issue 9 but now with new updates as of Nov 2015)

Many BP readers will have already witnessed the distressing sight of someone having a seizure, or you may have even experienced one yourself. It can be frightening to watch, exhausting to go through and unfortunately, people can often make the situation worse by not knowing how to deal with seizures properly, leaving everyone concerned thoroughly freaked out.

Most people associate seizures with having epilepsy and while it is certainly true to say that seizures (there are over 40 different types) are a symptom of having epilepsy, you don’t have to have epilepsy, to have a seizure. Anyone who has seen someone have a cocaine or alcohol induced seizure can attest to that.

Drug Induced:

For those of us who use drugs, particularly those of us who binge use or use to excess, seizures are known to occur for a few reasons. Sometimes they happen just before or as someone is overdosing, (i.e a seizure occurring just in the minutes before someone actually lapses into an overdose) or through withdrawing from a drug/s (i.e benzos, alcohol) or, they are a (rather intense) way of telling us that we have been pushing our bodies too hard for too long (i.e cocaine/stimulant related) and we can have a seizure which although is not an overdose -it is an overdose in the sense that you have reached the threshold in what your body can tolerate -and it is telling you -“Enough! My body has now gone into toxic overload!”. Basically, seizures occur when our systems have reached this point of toxicity or overload, even if the culprit drug is ecstasy, acid or heroin -when we tend to think of the most common culprits as stimulants and alcohol and benzodiazepines and barbituates.

 Know Your Limit

Everyone however, has what is called a ‘seizure threshold’, a certain sensitivity to seizures which means that anyone can experience one given the right conditions – such as excess use of alcohol, drug withdrawal, toxicity, dramatic metabolism changes etc. With 1 in 20 people having experienced a seizure at some stage in their lives, amongst drug users that rate increases rather dramatically, so its important that we learn something about seizures, their ‘triggers’ as well as their treatment.

It can be all too common to put the odd re-occurring seizure down to ‘the drugs I’m taking’ or to find that our medical investigations have not been followed up due to the pressures of everyday life and the difficulty embarking on consistent/stable medical care when you have other things on your mind like survival. But it’s important to remember that seizures can be very serious, they are hard work for the body and the brain in particular and, depending on where you are when you have your seizure, or if you end up having multiple seizures, you can be left in a dangerous or vulnerable situation.

If you are affected by seizures, if you have had more than 2 at once or 2 or more during the last year, or if it takes you more than a day to recover, or if your seizures start to occur regularly, it is essential you seek medical advice – at least to rule out any underlying causes such as infection, virus’s, tumors etc. You might have developed epilepsy in which you need medication, or there may be an underlying medical condition that has nothing to do with your drug use. You need to know these answers so you can take the right action.

To read the rest of this interesting and updated article, click here. Comments always welcome

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Drug Induced Seizures

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know your seizure 'triggers'

Many drug users may have experienced a seizure at one time or another –and you don’t have to be an epileptic to have a seizure.

[Epileptic] seizures can be very frightening to experience and to witness and although many ‘committed’ drug users/drinkers will have experienced a seizure at some point in our lives, there are still many myths that concern how to deal with a person who is fitting and a general lack of understanding as to what triggers ones seizure, or how to deal with it when it occurs. (look at OD Myths’ in Black Poppy 2).

There are two main types of epileptic seizures; petit mal (minor epilepsy where a person may momentarily lapse into inattention/ daydreaming without losing consciousness) and Grand Mal ( Major epilepsy) which is more serious with muscular spasms and convulsions and a short loss of consciousness. People who are epileptic may often carry an orange ID card or wear a warning bracelet. With drug use, it is the major type of seizure that occurs most often. This is usually from long term (or heavy bingeing) benzo or barbiturate use; A person may miss taking their pills for a day and find themselves fitting. However, seizures can occur alongside an overdose on most drugs, indeed they occur from too much alcohol, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, antidepressants and many others.  Interestingly, everyone has what is known as a ‘seizure threshold’ meaning that anyone can experience one given the right conditions. (BP has an indepth article on seizures, see Issue 11 for our drug induced seizure update.)

It is certain that stress increases the possibility of seizures, as does menstrual changes, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, metabolic changes (including blood pressure that is too low or drug/alcohol use), virus activity and other things, such as trauma to the head area, with seizures more likely to  re-occur if someone has had them in the past.

It is important to get to know what ‘trigger’ your seizures as it appears that the more you get them, the more susceptible you become to getting them. Thus if you can find ways to reduce the likelihood of getting a seizure, either through using certain neuroleptic drugs and improving your lifestyle, you have more chance of getting rid of them. Most people do stop or ‘grow out’ of seizures, but they can come back when your body is struggling from one thing or another.

Many of us have experienced seizures starting through too much benzodiazepines use (or from stopping them too quickly). Seizures can still happen up to a few years after benzo/barbiturate use has stopped. (see warning signs).

For the rest of the article, click here.

Osteomyelitis

Note: To read the complete article and not this abstract, please click here

Big Name, Big Infection

After noticing an increase in the numbers of IV drug users who have been diagnosed with osteomyelitis, BP thought some investigation was needed as it appears to be an infection most of us know very little about, but which can have some extremely serious consequences if left untreated. Osteomyelitis is a serious bone infection which can occur in virtually any bone in the body although it usually crops up in the spine, foot or in long tubular bones such as those in the arm or leg, even fingers.

osteomyelitis – an extremely painful infection inside the bone, and one that can affect injectors.

While quite rare in many countries, there has recently been a rise in the numbers of intravenous drug users (IVDUs) becoming infected and this is particularly disturbing considering its often vague initial signs and symptoms which can mean diagnosis is often delayed. This, coupled with the problems IVDUs often encounter when accessing health care can mean that many users are suffering unnecessarily through late diagnosis.

This is a particular concern as some forms of the disease, such as vertebral (spinal) osteomyelitis can, if left untreated, lead to permanent paralysis, significant spinal deformity or even death. It can be an extremely painful infection of the bone and can take some time to heal so it is important for all of us to be aware of osteomyelitis and its symptoms so we know what to look out for. People with compromised immune systems such as cancer or HIV/AIDS, need also be very aware of this debilitating condition as it is often more likely to appear in people whose immune systems are not functioning well.

What is it?

Osteomyelitis is usually a secondary infection that follows an infection borne elsewhere in the body – perhaps caused by a wound, (such as an infected abscess), surgery, bone fracture, or a foreign body such as a surgical plate. IV line, urinary catheter or bullet. Once started, the infection can then spread to the bone via the blood and when the bone is infected, pus is produced within the bone. This can result in an abscess, depriving the bone of its blood supply. Early treatment can save the bone from destruction but as bone is hard tissue it is often resistant to antibodies and this can be difficult to treat.

Similar to infective endocarditis (BP issue 7 and BP’s A-Z of Health), osteomyelitis is usually caused by the same bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus (Staph. a). This bacterium can be introduced into the body in a variety of ways. Staph a. live intermittently on the skin in more than 70% of the population at any one time and the other 14 are colonized persistently. Those who use injecting equipment on a regular basis and inject in sites that are potentially Staph A colonized such as the feet, hands, groin etc can be at greater risk of attracting infection (see prevention). Again, this is why a hygienic injecting regime is essential for all IV users to help reduce as many factors as possible that could encourage an infection, (see overleaf & BP no. 7).

To read the rest of this important article on osteomyelitis and catch up on the symptoms, treatment, its relation to intravenous drug use and more, click here (from BP issue 8)

Hepatitis C

A simplified diagram of the Hepatitis C virus ...

Replication cycle of the Hepatitis C virus

Once known as Hepatitis Non A Non B, Hepatitis C has been discussed a great deal in the using community over the last 20 years. Here, BP goes behind the ‘Hep C test’ where many of us once stopped, discovering why further tests are so important in getting to the bottom of your own Hep C diagnosis. There is a lot to know about when it comes to your own virus and then can be even more to consider when it comes to deciding if and when you’re going to start treatment. Especially, when, in 2015 we stand at the helm of a whole range of very effective HCV drugs and the word ‘cure’ is on every pharmaceutical companies lips.

In the last issue, BP ‘introduced’ the liver, briefly discussing what it does and how it does it. This issue, we want to look more closely at a virus that has affected the livers of an estimated 215,000 – 600,000 people in the UK alone, 170 million people worldwide with some 3 million more joining the global ranks each year. BP wanted to find some straightforward answers to some essential questions on Hepatitis C and what you may want to consider if you have been diagnosed Hep C (HCV) positive. (BP will look into treatments for HCV next issue).

Hepatitis C is?…

The actual word “hepatitis’ means inflammation or swelling of the liver. This can be caused by chemicals, drugs, drinking too much alcohol or by different kinds of viruses. Hepatitis C is just one of a number of hepatitis viruses (including A, B,D, E, G) and they are all completely different from one another. It can be hard to get your bead around just how small viruses really are. HCV is estimated to be 80 nanometers in diameter (around 30 billion would fit on this dot {,} – another reason why handwashing before and after injecting is so important; be especially vigilant if someone injects you after they’ve just had a hit – they could have microscopic particles of blood on their fingers and then may place them on your injection site. HCV is known to be remain active outside the body for some time so wash your hands and tell others to wash theirs! The hepatitis C virus is in fact a group of viruses, similar enough to be called HCV virus, yet different enough to be classified into subgroups.

Genotypes

Several families of hepatitis C have been observed around The world and these are known as genotypes, because they differ in their genetic make up. They arc usually classified as HCV genotype 1 ,or 2, or 3, etc. Some genotypes respond better to treatment than others so it is important to identify your genotype when considering treatment for Hep C..

Subtypes

Within each genotype, there are subtypes. These are classified as HCV subtype la, or Ib, Ic, etc and within a subtype, incredibly minute differences will exist among individual viruses, called quasispecies – several million quasispecies would exist within a subtype.

To read the rest of this BP article, and find out how Hep C can affect you, click here.

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