Narcolepsy Treatment and Drugs

Narcolepsy is a sleep illness that affects the lives of over three million people in the world today. This illness knows no color or class. It is found in both the rich and the poor. Some of the aspects of narcolepsy can be dangerous to the patients suffering from it and the people around them. Treatment of narcolepsy is a must for anyone who is plagued by this illness.

Narcolepsy treatments come in many forms. Most people, who have narcolepsy sleep disorder, must undergo a comprehensive treatment plan in order to have a chance at a normal life. Ultimately, this means a very rigid schedule is necessary to keep sleep attacks at a minimum and medications are usually needed to control the symptoms of narcolepsy.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

The symptoms of narcolepsy can range in severity and they can cause a person much stress on a day to day basis. These can be as simple as someone forgetting to take the shopping list to the store with them after they very carefully wrote it. This person may not be a forgetful person, but narcolepsy has a way of causing such small dramas. The following is a list of narcolepsy symptoms and what can stem from them:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (E.D.S.) – This is when a person has trouble staying awake during the times when they need to be awake. They may fall asleep during a meeting at work, or in worse cases, while driving a vehicle.
  • Cataplexy- This is when a person suddenly a without warning loses muscle control. This can result in falls, which can leave a person seriously injured.
  • Sleep paralysis- This is when a person is aware of their surroundings, but can’t move or speak. This usually happens right when the person is going to sleep, or just as they begin to wake up.
  • Hallucinations- This is when a person sees or hears things that are not there. This is very common in people suffering with sleep paralysis.

Dangerous Aspects of Narcolepsy

Without proper treatment narcolepsy can get out of control and become dangerous to the person suffering with it, as well as the people around them. This can make every day, normal activity a real hassle to those involved, especially if the person with narcolepsy does not involve the people he or she knows by telling them about this condition. A person suffering from narcolepsy may be considered rude or lazy by those not knowing the whole story. This in turn can lead to embarrassment. Here is a list of the life altering aspects associated with narcolepsy symptoms:

  • Cooking can be a real hazard if the person falls asleep even for just a few seconds. This danger includes the stove catching fire and sharp knives causing injury.
  • Driving vehicles and/or operating machinery are already an activity that requires extreme attention in order for it to be safe. Someone with narcolepsy poses an increased risk for fatal injuries, especially if untreated.
  • Schooling can be drastically affected if a person with narcolepsy falls asleep during a lecture. Important information can be lost in just a few seconds.
  • If a person falls asleep on the job, the most likely disciplinary action is termination. A person with narcolepsy risks this situation on a daily basis. If the condition is made known, the employer may be lenient when dealing with situations like this.

Non Medication Narcolepsy Treatments

Treatment for narcolepsy starts at home with the person making a conscious decision to change his or her lifestyle. These changes, in necessity, range from somewhat important to very necessary, depending on the severity of the illness in the person. These changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Better sleeping habits
  • Avoid night time work
  • Scheduled naps during the day time
  • Involve friends, family, and co-workers
  • Improved diet
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and over the counter medications that promote drowsiness
  • Keep a sleep journal handy at all times
  • Wear a medical bracelet to alert others of the condition
  • Seek counseling

These lifestyle changes combined with narcolepsy treatment drugs can provide anyone suffering with narcolepsy with a more normal life. These changes all must start with the person saying “I can change for the betterment of my life”.

Medical Treatments for Narcolepsy

Most of the time, narcolepsy is misdiagnosed due to the lack of medical history in a person. This could result in the prescribed medications being the wrong ones. Trial and error is usually the only thing that can be done in the beginning of narcolepsy drug treatment. Here is a list of types of drugs commonly used in the treatments of narcolepsy.

  • Stimulants- These are very common types of drugs used to promote wakefulness. Stimulants should be taken carefully, due to the side effects. Patients suffering from any psychiatric ailments should avoid stimulants.
  • Antidepressants- These are used to treat cataplexy and hallucinations due to sleep paralysis.
  • Sodium Oxybate- This is used to promote very peaceful sleep. This type of drug has to be taken carefully in several doses for it to work properly. It reduces E.D.S. and works to prevent cataplexy attacks.

Usually patients with narcolepsy need more than one of these types of drugs for the effects to be successful in their treatment. Narcolepsy drugs, as with any drugs, need time to build themselves up in the person for the treatment to be of benefit to him or her.

Narcolepsy Drug Treatment-Specific Drugs

Some common stimulants used to stimulate the central nervous system are:

  • Provigil
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta

Some common antidepressants used to treat cataplexy and hallucinations are:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Sarafem
  • Effexor

Some older tricyclic antidepressants include:

  • Vivactil
  • Tofranil

These two drugs aren’t as common due to the side effect they produce, although they are considered by doctors to be very effective in controlling cataplexy.

The most common version of sodium oxybate is:

  • Xyrem

Xyrem has to be taken with absolute, extreme care. This drug has been called the “date rape drug” due to the intense deep sleep it can induce. This drug is also not like the other narcolepsy drugs, because it is a liquid instead of a pill. The doses have to be taken in multiples over a period of hours for Xyrem to work properly. Too much at one time can cause coma or even death.

Check with your local clinic for more information on how to manage insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and other hypersomnias.  There may be a guide available with narcolepsy health information or a list of available treatments and drugs.

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