I have been on Quetiapine since early 2008 and from the outset I knew immediately that this was the drug that I had been waiting for. It did not leave me seeing life through a net curtain which is the case with so many psychiatric drugs. For the first time in many years I fell asleep quickly usually within fifteen minutes of taking the tablets. I then slept each night for around 8 hours and this became such a regular pattern that my sleep was predictable, something that the mind needs. Routine and predictability are key needs when someone suffers with a mental illness so the provision of this drug saved me much distress, previously caused by lack of sleep. the drug is used as a mood stabiliser and it does contain a sedative but, more importantly, it comes under the umbrella of anti-psychotics. Gone were the feelings I was being watched or that people were talking about me. I no longer feared opening the door. I knew the police were not outside unlike previous spells prior to taking this medication.
Last year I became physically ill and immediately went into a full blown episode partly caused by kidney failure and partly by some family difficulties I was unable to resolve. During my hospitalisation my Quetiapine was changed to a ‘slow release’ type. The aim apparently was to allow the drug to work over a 24-hour period. The slow action, however, meant that, after five years of good sleep patterns I found myself lying awake at night for up to three hours or more only to wake late and struggle with drowsiness until mid morning. No doubt I had to some extent become dependent on the drug to help me sleep and I was not getting enough injection of it at bedtime to bring about the desired result.
The change in medication had not been explained to me but, like so many people who have learnt to cope with their mental health issues through a process of trial and error, I worked it out for myself. I began to take the tablets earlier in the evening and for a while this worked but I still slept excessively late and crawled out of bed in a drug filled haze.
However, social occasions mean that I cannot always take my tablets during the evening and visiting friends and relatives involved excessive wakefulness until the early hours of the mornings. I became more and more frustrated and resorted to the use of Zopiclone when away from home. Deep down I was not happy with my disturbed nights but provided I slept late and clocked up 8-9 hours I knew I would stay well.
For some reason this form of Quetiapine (also known as Seroquel) remained on my repeat prescription and it was only when I saw a different GP for another non-mental-health reason that the subject of the type of medication and my dissatisfaction with it was discussed. Simple, he said, ask your named doctor to change you back to the regular type of Quetiapine. So I did. I wrote a note explaining that I would like to be taken off the slow release and a new prescription followed in days.
What joy! Now I drop off to sleep within 15-20 minutes of settling into bed. Reading in bed has become a shortened affair! But, undeterred, I have resolved this by reading before I go to bed. Not only do I go to sleep quickly and have found little need for a sleeping tablet but I do not sleep too late in the morning. I wake up refreshed and can deal with tasks almost immediately rather than dragging my feet around the kitchen waiting to ‘wake up’.
It is definitely a case of returning to a drug less slow.
And I am loving it!