Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Alcohol, sedatives can depress body’s breathing mechanism, doctor warns

Sep 25. 2019
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By The Nation

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Dr Krisda Sirampuj, director of an international anti-ageing medical centre, said a human body’s respiratory mechanism doesn’t start in the lungs, but actually in the brain, which instructs the human body to breathe. He said this brain-to-lungs connection is automatic and our bodies know not to hold the breath.

“However, my concern is that some activities can intentionally or unintentionally affect our breathing mechanism, like alcohol or sleeping agents. Some might say these things do not kill people, but they don’t realise that not everybody’s breathing mechanism is the same. Drinking too much or forcing someone to drink may lead to death. Some people commit suicide by overdosing with sleeping agents, or worst-case scenario, they wash down sedatives with alcohol,” Dr Krisda said.

The doctor has been studying cases of the overuse of sedatives and consumption of alcohol. He said the use of sedatives and alcohol depresses the body’s breathing mechanism. For instance, if morphine, a pain-relief medication, is teamed up with benzodiazepines, a sleep agent, the nervous system will not be able to control the breathing mechanism at all.

Signs of respiratory depression are confusion, disorientation, fatigue, shallow breathing, bluish or tinted skin, seizures, respiratory arrest, coma and eventual death.

The six chemicals that can stop respiration are:

1. Sleeping pills or anxiety suppressants such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates;

2. Drugs used in anaesthesiology;

3. Anti-epilepsy drugs like phenobarbital;

4. Ethanol or alcohol which can be catastrophic when combined with sleeping pills or other sleep-inducing agents such as barbiturates or chloral hydrate;

5. Opium-based painkillers such as morphine, tramadol, fentanyl and heroin;

6. Drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and gamma hydroxy butyrate.

He said, these drugs are safe under the control of a medical expert or an anaesthesiologist, adding that people should always control the amount of alcohol they consume.

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