COMING OFF TRANQUILLIZERS: GRACE’S STORY

Grace, aged sixty-seven, was prescribed Tranxene six years ago because she was ‘run down’ after nursing her husband through a long illness. She had always been a strong outward-looking woman who spent a lot of her time helping the young mothers and the elderly in her area. She saw her doctor because she was becoming increasingly confused and agoraphobic. She was given a tonic and told to rest.

Her daughter telephoned her saying that she had read an article in a woman’s magazine saying the elderly should have greatly reduced doses of tranquillizers because they cannot excrete them at the same rate as the young. Because of this, the elderly are often confused and have frequent falls. Weight is also an important factor. So often a person weighing stones is prescribed the same dose as a heavy weight of 15 stones.

Grace telephoned the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to see if there was any help in her area. After a telephone call to the support group (and to her doctor for his permission), she started slow withdrawal. She had been cutting down for six weeks when she felt her old self returning. Her family said she had lost the dead look from her eyes and her skin looked a healthier colour.

She rang the group regularly for explanation of a symptom or for reassurance. Her main problems were headaches, slight incontinence, and a feeling that her bottom was ‘not there’. The agoraphobia was much better by the time her drugs were reduced to half, although by this time she was a bit shaky outside because she felt the ground was moving when she walked.

Her positive attitude to any problem was a great help to her. She was more confident when she pushed a shopping trolley. Walking with a stick was the next step. She now walks unaided, supports others (often using humour to ease tension), and is excited about her holiday when she is taking her grandson camping.

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