26 Sep Chloral Hydrate Addiction
Chloral hydrate is an old sedative first synthesized by Justin Liebig in 1832, and then widely used from the end of the 19th century until around 1950.[i] Alcoholics typically used it to get to sleep, and it was extremely popular in Victorian England in literary and aristocratic circles.[ii] Once considered safe and easy to use, chloral hydrate is now recognized addictive, carcinogenic, and dangerous, especially when used on children. [iii]
Chloral hydrate has an alter ego as the notorious Mickey Finn. The Mickey Finn, also known as a knockout drop, is a combination of chloral hydrate and alcohol that produces intoxication and unconsciousness. Criminals have been using Mickey Finns when they commit rape or robbery for over a hundred years.
Today it is easy to make chloral hydrate by using recipes for it on the Internet. Addiction happens quickly — usually within two weeks– and the withdrawal syndrome is every bit as nasty as the ones for alcohol or barbiturates.[iv]
What is Chloral Hydrate?
Chloral hydrate is a non-barbiturate sedative that slows down the central nervous system and brain activity, causing extreme drowsiness and deep sleep within an hour, depending on the dosage.[v] Although this drug has been around for over 180 years, no one is exactly sure how it works, but one theory is that it metabolizes into trichloroethanol, which in turn causes the sedative effect. Compared to most sedatives, chloral hydrate only causes a mild slowing down or depression of breathing and heart rate.[vi]
What are the Medical Uses of Chloral Hydrate?
Chloral hydrate can be prescribed as a short-term sleeping pill for two to seven days. Using it more than a week can cause addiction. Chloral hydrate is sometimes prescribed as a sedative, especially before surgeries, and to ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.[vii] In the past it was used for pain after surgeries.
If chloral hydrate is used to sedate children before they have dental surgery or other medical procedures, doctors are advised to do so only in hospitals or other medical settings, and to monitor the children after the drug is administered. Chloral hydrate administered in the wrong potency can cause death.[viii]
The initial dosage for adults is 500mg to one gram at bedtime, when chloral hydrate is used as a sleeping pill, and 250mg three times a day with meals when it is prescribed for sedation. Before surgery, an adult dose is 500mg to one gram. Children are usually given 50mg before bedtime when chloral hydrate is used as a sleeping pill, and 25mg to 50mg three times a day as a sedative.[ix] The effect of the drug begins within a half-hour, and it can induce sleep within an hour.[x] Chloral hydrate is supposed to increase the time you spend sleeping.
Chloral hydrate comes as capsules, suppositories or as a clear pink or orange liquid in 16-ounce bottles.[xi] One teaspoon of the liquid contains 500mg of chloral hydrate.
The United States government classifies chloral hydrate as a Schedule IV Controlled Substance, which means it has a potential for addiction and the government highly regulates it. You can incur fines and prison time if you are caught selling or possessing chloral hydrate without a doctor’s prescription.[xii] In some jurisdictions, using any drug to commit a crime can increase the time you serve in prison.
Although chloral hydrate is very old drug and has been used for years, the United States Food and Drug Association has never officially approved it for medical reasons. In June 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines called “The Marketed Unapproved Drugs—Compliance Policy Guide.” The FDA advised manufacturers of drugs that have never been approved by the agency to either seek approval or remove them from the market.[xiii] Breckenridge Pharmaceutical, Inc. stopped making Somnote in 2013 due to manufacturing and supply issues.
What are the Risks of Taking Chloral Hydrate?
One of the main risks of taking chloral hydrate is that you can easily become addicted to it. Once addicted, you will experience a difficult withdrawal syndrome when you try to stop using it. It is so dangerous to try to withdraw from chloral hydrate on your own that most people need to enter a medical facility to do it. You will also develop other characteristics of addiction, including drug cravings, building a tolerance to chloral hydrate, and psychological dependency on the drug.
Another risk of chloral hydrate is that it is relatively easy to overdose and die from it, and this is especially true in children.
Chloral hydrate is a carcinogen known to cause cancerous liver tumors in laboratory animals.[xiv]
Prolonged use of chloral hydrate can cause permanent liver damage.[xv]
Some people develop a blood disorder called leukopenia from taking chloral hydrate.[xvi]
Chloral hydrate interferes with routine tests of blood sugar used by diabetics.[xvii]
A few people will have a rare but life-threatening allergic reaction to chloral hydrate. Their symptoms might be skin rashes, hives, difficulty breathing, shutting down of the throat, swollen lips and tongue, anxiety, faintness, wheezing, and itching. People in this distress, called anaphylaxis, need to be treated immediately at an emergency room facility.
What are the Side Effects of Chloral Hydrate?
The main side effects of chloral hydrate are drowsiness, sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, gas, indigestion, stomach pain, droopy eyelids, headache, vertigo, nightmares, and confusion. Some people get “hangovers” the next day if they used chloral hydrate as a sleeping pill the night before.[xviii] Rarer side effects can be skin rashes, unpleasant taste in the mouth, itching, delirium, hallucinations, loss of muscle coordination, and lightheadedness.
More serious side effects can be uneven heartbeat, shallow breathing, faintness, weakness, and red, blistering or peeling skin. Some people react to chloral hydrate paradoxically by becoming excited.[xix]
Chloral hydrate causes stomach upset and has an unpleasant taste.[xx]
What Drugs Interact with Chloral Hydrate?
Chloral hydrate causes dangerous and even fatal reactions when combined with certain drugs. Chloral hydrate should not be taken with certain blood thinners such as Coumadin because when you stop taking chloral hydrate, you may experience severe bleeding episodes called the hypoprothrombinemic effect.[xxi]
In general, chloral hydrate should not be combined with any drugs that make you sleepy or otherwise depress the central nervous system. These might be alcohol, sleeping pills, anti-seizure drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, narcotic pain killers, illegal narcotics, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, and most cold and allergy medications. Some specific drugs that interact with chloral hydrate are GHB, arsenic, paraldehyde, diuretics, anticoagulants, cisapride, astemizole, dofetilide, astemizole, terfemadine, carisoprodol, clobazam, codeine, diazepam, Valium, pimozide, thioridazine, Ziprasidone, mesoridozine, and levomethadyl.[xxii]
Which People Should not Take Chloral Hydrate?
People with heart diseases, irregular heart rhythms, diseases of the liver or kidney, inflammation of the stomach or esophagus, blood disorders, ulcers, colitis, porphyria, depression, suicidal thoughts, or histories of drug abuse should not take chloral hydrate. Chloral hydrate is a Category C drug, which means it is harmful to children of pregnant women or nursing mothers.[xxiii]
Does Chloral Hydrate Show up on Urine Tests?
Chloral hydrate does not usually show up on routine urine tests given at work or school. This is partly why it is the ideal drug used to facilitate crime.
What is a Chloral Hydrate Overdose?
Chloral hydrate overdoses used to be quite common in the United States. Death usually occurred after someone took ten grams or more; however, some people died after taking four grams and others have survived 30 grams.[xxiv]
Symptoms of a chloral hydrate drug overdose are most often low body temperature and coma.[xxv] Some people appear drunk in that they will have slurred speech, extreme drowsiness, and confusion. Other symptoms can be difficulty breathing, weakness, slow heartbeat, nausea, extreme drowsiness, fainting, uneven heartbeat, muscle weakness, jaundice, coughing up blood, decreased pupil size, and vomiting what looks like coffee grounds.[xxvi]
Anna Nicole Smith, Marilyn Monroe and John Tyndall had chloral hydrate in their bodies when they died of drug overdoses. The people at the Jonestown Massacre is chloral hydrate to commit mass suicide. The baseball player Hank Williams may have been addicted to it. Mary Todd Lincoln, Frederick Nietzsche, and Dante Rossetti all used chloral hydrate to treat insomnia.
What is Chloral Hydrate Withdrawal?
Chloral hydrate withdrawal is a syndrome of symptoms that addicts develop when they try to stop using chlorate hydrate. The syndrome is so difficult that experts advise people not to try to withdraw from this drug on their own, but to enter a residential treatment center or hospital where withdrawal can be conducted under medically supervised circumstances.[xxvii] Doctors can prescribe medications such as clonidine to help ease your symptoms, and they can monitor dangerous problems such as hallucinations and seizures so that you do not injure yourself.
The syndrome is similar to the ones for barbiturates or alcohol. Symptoms can be anxiety, delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, stomach and muscle cramps, vomiting, and sweating. Some people develop parenchymatous renal failure, which means the kidneys will be unable to function.[xxviii]
What is Chloral Hydrate Addiction?
Addiction to chloral hydrate used to be quite common throughout the 19th century until about 1950. It only takes about two weeks to become psychologically and physically dependent on chloral hydrate.[xxix] Addicts build up a tolerance to the drug and can take it in amounts that would kill an ordinary person. They also develop drug cravings and drug-seeking behaviors in that they become preoccupied with obtaining and using chloral hydrate. When they try to stop using it, they go into withdrawal.
Chloral hydrate addictions are uncommon today. Typically, those who are addicted to other drugs use chloral hydrate as a supplement when they cannot get the drug of their choice or as a sleeping pill because they have developed insomnia from using drugs or alcohol.
The first use of the term “Mickey Finn” dates from about 1900, and is associated with Chicago gangsters who frequented the Lone Star Saloon owned by a man named Mickey Finn. Apparently, Finn would drop chloral hydrate in his customers’ drinks and then rob them.[xxx] Criminals still use chloral hydrate to render their victims unconscious.
The United States Congress passed the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996, making it a felony to give an unsuspecting person a date rape drug with the intent of committing violence, including rape, against that person.[xxxi] Date rape drugs such as chloral hydrate, rohypnol, GHB and ketamine, are common on college campuses and bars.
What Treatments are Available for Chloral Hydrate Addiction?
If you are addicted to chloral hydrate, you should not try to withdraw from this drug on your own. The symptoms of chloral hydrate withdrawal can be life- threatening and extremely difficult to manage.
Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist at a residential treatment center for drug addiction and ask them how you can complete a managed withdrawal from chloral hydrate. If you decide to enter a residential treatment center, you may have to plan on staying a month or more, depending on your level of addiction and what comorbidities you may have that require separate treatment. Comorbidities are psychiatric problems such as depression and bipolar disorder that travel with but do not necessarily cause drug addiction. The vast majority of drug addicts have untreated comorbidities.
After you complete your physical withdrawal from chloral hydrate, you will be working through your program of psychotherapy, classes, physical fitness, and recreational activities at your drug rehab center. Your experience should be fun as well as life-changing, as you learn to deal with stress without using drugs and find fulfilling new activities to take the place of drug addiction. This is necessary because once you quit using drugs, you will find out just how much time and energy went into it, and you will also discover that many of your friendships and even family relationships have to change in order for you to remain drug-free. You have to find something fulfilling such as a new career path, exciting new hobbies, or even a new course of education to take the place of drugs. This is why you are at a residential treatment center where career counselors, psychotherapists, family and relationship counselors, and other specialists can help you achieve all of this.
Once you return home, you will remain in individual psychotherapy and attend self-help support meetings in your local community. Usually you continue working with family or couples therapists, and you remain in touch with your therapists and case manager at the residential treatment center.
How Can I Tell if I am Addicted to Chloral Hydrate?
- Are you taking chloral hydrate without a prescription?
- Have you been taking chloral hydrate for more than two weeks?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using chloral hydrate?
- Are you using chloral hydrate to modulate the effects of alcohol or other drugs?
- Are you using chloral hydrate to get to sleep because you are using drugs?
- Are you worried that your illegal use of chloral hydrate and other drugs may get you in trouble with the police?
- Do you go from one doctor to another to obtain your drugs?
- Does your drug abuse interfere with your performance at work or school?
- Have you ever driven under the influence of chloral hydrate or other drugs or otherwise risked your physical life because of drugs?
- Do you find it difficult or possible to go more than a day or two without using drugs?
- Do your family members or friends criticize you for abusing drugs?
- Do you feel that your life would be more fulfilling if you did not use drugs?
- Do you use drugs for emotional reasons, such as when you feel depressed?
- Do you feel that you should cut down on your use of drugs, even though you can’t stop completely?
- Do you feel bad or guilty about using chloral hydrate or other drugs?
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