1. Caveriver
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    Caveriver Active Member

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    Self-medicating & dealing with PTSD

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Caveriver, Jul 25, 2016.

    I have a MC who is about to revisit the site of her trauma, and has a bit of a residual pill attachment as a result of the injuries she sustained. She also sufferes from flashbacks and flashback nightmares, and logically, revisiting the site of her trauma will likely trigger these. Unfortunately I need her to be able to talk and function during this scene without undermining what she is experiencing.

    I have experienced a very mild form of PTSD (after an accident), but nothing so severe as this. Would pills (oxycodone, in generous amounts- she has a resilience) be an accurate and believable way for her to numb herself enough to accomplish this? Do you buy that? Does anyone have any insight on PTSD effects that might be helpful to me?
     
  2. kim&jessie
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    kim&jessie Member

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    PTSD is a very broad term that can mean a number of things that ultimately can effect people in many different ways. revisiting the site of trauma can give closure to a situation but depending on how her PTSD manifests itself and how she deals with this could ultimately do more harm than good, especially if a heavy reliance on opioids already exists. a sedative can subdue feelings of agitation or fear, which can manifest physically as pain in the body, and many people with PTSD can't differentiate mental and physical pain and turn to painkillers heavily to deal with it. so while that is believable, it would be worrying for her as blatantly returning to the spot of the initial trauma could be catastrophic for her mental health and send her more frequently into episodes which would cause higher and higher dependency on opioids, which most of the time ends in death. alternatively, revisiting the place of trauma while on a heavy amount of opioids could circumvent feelings of closure or confrontation that may have been helpful in the first place. if she is to revisit the place where the trauma happened, ultimately it would be more beneficial in the long run to do it without the help of any medication in her system, and with lots and lots of help from loved ones who can provide her counsel through these periods and who can keep an eye on her painkillers so she isn't heavily self-medicating. having loved ones coaching her through the experience could make for very interesting dialogue. a lot of the time this can be overwhelming, but repeated visits can help to lessen the stress induced by seeing the site of the trauma, and once the individual with PTSD sees that there isn't anything to be afraid of, or works through their feelings of fear and repression, it can help in weening themselves off of medication. it's a risk and a personal decision which she would have to make (with a little help from you) that ultimately could make the difference in where her character arc leads.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
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  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My understanding is that:

    1) the trauma itself isn't what causes the symptoms, it's how powerless you felt against the trauma (and later how powerless you feel again against the symptoms)

    2) how well people take care of you after the fact is one of the major factors in how powerless you feel with regards to the first point. Someone who is immediately comforted and protected following a strong trauma may deal with the symptoms more easily than someone who is on their own following a more moderate trauma.

    In my fictional work, I plan to demonstrate one of my villains' sociopathy by having her treat her own PTSD in a way that normal people would find more horrifying than what initially happened to her, but in the real world:

    One of the best treatments I've heard of is where the patient is given a drug that calms him down, but leaves him conscious enough to talk about what happened (my Google-fu is failing me right now, but I will come back to this as soon as I find out what the drug is called). He is then asked to relive the trauma, explaining as much graphic detail as he can remember while the drugs keep him calm. When he wakes up, part of the original association between The Event and the horror/powerlessness he felt at the time goes away, replaced by an association between The Event and how calm/safe he was when he was asked to relive it.

    EDIT: propranolol
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  4. Caveriver
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    Caveriver Active Member

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    This is very interesting, thank you. What you have described is, ultimately, what I was hoping my MC would accomplish. However, she wouldn't have access to propranolol, but she does have a stash of leftover pain killers. Aside from horse sedative, this is as close as I see a way to get her to the desired affect, without the annoying cliche of alcohol.

    Any thoughts on who she should take with her to the site? I have heard time and time again "take a trusted friend," but, for my MC, this just seems like a safety net. Not to mention, she knows her pain will cause her friend pain also, and of course her friend is going to want to "protect" her from pushing herself to deal with this. I have it set up for her to go back with someone she has decided to trust, but to whom she is not emotionally attached. To me, this seems like a more freeing way to go about it, avoiding much unwanted baggage and cliche dialogue. Not to mention, as the new person finds out about the event, so does the audience. Thoughts?
     
  5. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The mechanically-objective best decision would be to bring a certified therapist, but this sounds like the kind of imperfect decision that a well-rounded character would make. I would be careful about presenting it as the best decision, but I can't see any reason why it couldn't be a character's good-enough decision.

    Though, if we are talking about a mechanically-objective best decision when a prescription for propranolol – to be used in a therapist's office, not out and about – or even a more generic anti-anxiety pill is not available for whatever reason (especially since propranolol is intended to be used over the course of several sessions rather than as a one-time cure), then perhaps sleeping pills would be better? I'm not familiar with the different kind of pain pills on the market, but my gut-reaction as a potential reader is that most painkillers would bring you back to a baseline, not a lot would make you tired enough quickly enough to calm the anxiety.

    And I just noticed that it's 12:30 in the morning. Perhaps we should finish this tomorrow later today?
     
  6. Caveriver
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    Caveriver Active Member

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    Isn't that fun, how time gets away?

    I agree with your assessment of being a "good-enough" decision. I am not familiar with sleeping pills at all, but I am very familiar with (prescription) narcotic pain killers, if you take my meaning. I know how they affect me, so I hoped to draw on this for a realistic experience, but I never used them specifically for warding off flashbacks, only for pain (although, they do make me very happy).
     
  7. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ooooh, OK :cool:

    Yeah, as long as at least one character or another recognizes that the narcotic won't work as well as something prescribed by a doctor explicitly for anxiety, then I think you should be good. That's the only concern I'd have with this: portraying it as something real people should do instead of seeing a doctor.
     
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  8. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    Oxy would not be very good for PTSD. It's fast acting and isn't really for anxiety. It's also very hard to get, my wife was given oxy after a surgery and even with the valid prescription, it was a pain in the ass to fill. Pharmacies don't stock up on it, some of them won't even have it at all. I have no idea about the black market, but I imagine it can't be any easier. I imagine the pills are also extremely expensive without insurance.

    I've known a bunch of people suffering from PTSD, alcohol seems to be the self-medicating drug of choice. Pot too. Neither are good long-term solutions and probably both make things worse.

    Would Xanax work? It would help with the PTSD (I think) and it's pretty common and cheap. I take it for anxiety sometimes. In large doses I think it would act like a sedative, but a normal dose just keeps me from having problems in crowds.
     

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