The following (2) articles were written by Dr. Stoller and published by the Open to Hope Foundation.
They are presented here, in their entirety
Oxytocin Treatment May Help ‘Pathological Grief’
By Kenneth Stoller | Submitted on 08/12/2010
It has been two years and seven months since I had the misfortune to discover how effective the hormone oxytocin is in helping one cope with pathological grief. That was the same month I gave a little research presentation at the MIND Institute at UC Davis about hyperbaric oxygen in treating children with autism. It was through my work with children on the autism spectrum that I became adept at using oxytocin for treating fear and anxiety, but it took me over three weeks after my son passed from a train accident until I realized it might help me.
Oxytocin is the hormone of trust and love, but it nicely blocks fear inputs into the amygdalae of the brain, a part of the limbic system. First and foremost, I need to explain what I am calling pathological grief, as I experienced it. I had completely lost the ability to modulate obsessive thoughts about how my son died, what he might have experienced, what if I had been able to be there, and so on. This collection of fear, anxiety, and panic took on a life of its own as if it were a separate thought-stream I had no control of. It was suffocating and debilitating.
I also experienced a most unusual phenomenon – in the hour after sunset and in the hour before sunrise, I had tapped into a most unpleasant circadian emotional cycle. The Swedes call the hour before sunrise the hour of the wolf, the time when your worst fear is realized. Oh boy, I can attest to that. Most people know the hour after sunset as the bewitching hour, which can affect babies or old folks with dementia.
The hour of the wolf was the worst because it would catch me off guard if I happened to be sleeping, so I made a point of setting my alarm to wake up in advance of it and occupy myself creating tones with quartz bowls until the sun came up. The evening wasn’t as bad, but it was still bad. I had to control my breath as if I was in a Lamaze class and breathe my way through the hour.
I still remember that very first time I used oxytocin. I waited for the bewitching hour, until I was good and affected by its spell, and then I squirted two doses up my nose. It took about ten minutes to fully kick in, but it worked. My obsessive fear, panic and anxiety fell away from me and I had emotional equilibrium.
I purposely thought again about one of my disturbing obsessions and nothing stopped me from doing so, but as soon as I no longer wanted to think about it, it drifted away and no longer had a life of its own. There are only so many oxytocin receptors in the brain so they will be quickly saturated for some time. It will not become addicting. I didn’t need to use oxytocin for more than a few weeks.
Now, if you and your physician think oxytocin is right for you, then it is a prescription item and will need to be ordered. I had a compounding pharmacy make up my nasal oxytocin. Your physician can have the local drug store order it as it is used to treat new breastfeeding moms having trouble with milk letdown. Anxiety will stop milk letdown, or should I say a lack of oxytocin will stop the flow.
You will need to have a saline nasal pump, empty it out and put the oxytocin in the pump instead. You will also need a syringe to pull it out of the vial so your physician will need to order you one as well. I do this for my patients; I just have them bring the oxytocin vials to my office and I transfer it into a nasal pump. Having said all that, it is probably better to obtain it from a compounding pharmacy known to supply the oxytocin nasal spray, such as Hopewell, Lee Silsby, College or Wellness (four compounding pharmacies I know that will prepare oxytocin nasal spray) as most neighborhood pharmacy won’t have it in stock.
The bottom line is a physician will need to order it as it is not an over-the-counter item. This may sound like a lot of trouble to get, but it really isn’t, and it is really worth having it. Do not take it if you are pregnant as there are oxytocin receptors on the pregnant uterus and it will cause it to contract.
There is a tourist train that passes near my house in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I still live. I hear it blow its whistle every evening during the summer just after sunset. It was the last sound my son heard on earth, albeit from another train in another location; nevertheless, before my oxytocin experience, I would cringe when I heard it and the sound of its rolling stock.
Today, when I hear the whistle I think not of tragedy, but of adventure. I think of the excitement old-time tourists must have felt taking trains to the National Parks in the Southwest be they in Arizona or Utah, and I think of the good times Galen and I had on the train at Disneyland.
Medical Intervention for Pathological Grief?
By Kenneth Stoller | Submitted on 08/12/2010
In my first article for Open to Hope, I wrote about my first-hand experience in using the hormone oxytocin to relieve the symptoms of pathological grief, which I experienced after the death of my son, and which have been duplicated in a number of patients. In this post, I want to bring in another element that may be helpful to those experiencing extreme grief as many will turn to alcohol to relieve some of their symptoms, and relief they will get — but at a cost.
Alcohol will raise oxytocin levels in the human body, but at the same time in will increase a whole variety of undesirable chemicals and hormones that do not assist the human body or in the processing of grief.
I have used oxytocin to treat alcoholics with varying degrees of success, but my experience as a physician is that using oxytocin alone is not the answer for alcoholism. Now, grieving doesn’t turn someone into an alcoholic, so where am I going with this? There is a rather benign drug that has been shown to be very effective in treating alcoholism that you will not have heard about. That’s because it has been generic for many years and there is no profit motive for a pharmaceutical company to try and get a new indication (file a new application) for a drug any drug company can make.
The drug is called Baclophen and has been used as a muscle relaxant for a variety of conditions. So, without a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug, neither physicians nor the public will ever hear about it unless they read medical journals.
More than alcoholism, what Baclophen seems to do is help with addictions, and I have been able to see smokers quit cigarettes just from using Baclophen. What is an addiction? There is a physical component and an emotional component. Emotionally, an addiction is a locked emotional habit, and in a broad sense that can cover a lot of territory having nothing to do with physical or chemical additions. But Baclophen seems to be able to throw a roadblock up on the addictive highway in our brains.
When you practice the piano or any musical instrument, you train the neural pathways in your brain to create channels wherein signals can travel back and forth with greater and greater ease. That is where the saying “practice makes perfect” has its truth.
When an aberrant emotion, or emotional behavior, starts up, it too will create a neural pathway to make it easier and easier to experience that emotion. At the height of my grief, I found that the panic, fear and anxiety took on a life of its own that I could not consciously control and for me, oxytocin alone shut that down and allowed the chemistry of my brain to return to normal, which gave me emotional equanimity.
As I have already pointed out, the public does not know about using oxytocin for grief anymore than they know about using Baclophen for addictions. Now, Baclophen has the potential to take its place as a potential treatment for pathological grief in concert with oxytocin because it can help with addictive patterns.
Clearly, pathological grief has an addictive component to it but not because of any conscious decision or choice. It is a chemical cascade in our brain. It is my opinion that anything that is relatively benign and inexpensive should be considered in helping someone with pathological grief.
I think oxytocin (as a nasal spray previously discussed) should be considered first, but there may be synergy by adding in a very low dose of Baclophen especially if the grieving individual has a propensity to turn to alcohol as an assist. In a recent double-blind study, Baclophen was successfully used to treat alcoholism at both the 5 mg and 10 mg (3 times a day) level. This is a very low dose, although there are some individuals who are very sensitive to it just as there are individuals who are sensitive to almost any medication. (Some individuals require very large doses to treat alcoholism, but that is not the subject of this post, I only mention it to be thorough in my discussion.)
In a sense, by giving this information to the public, information that the vast majority of physicians are not familiar with, I am asking grieving individuals to become their own advocate and get what they need, perhaps at the very time in their life that they are least likely to feel the strength to be their own advocate. It is a conundrum, but it is one that will need to be overcome.
In my next post, I will discuss what the options are for someone who did not get these benign interventions, for someone who did not heal on their own and whose pathological grief has turned into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What are the medical options for these individuals without turning to antidepressants that are, in some cases, causing the increased suicide rates in the veteran population?
TREATMENTS YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER
If the information I have been writing about were in a text book, or taught in medical school,
I would not be writing these articles for the Open To Hope Foundation website.
But this information is not available, and I am one of the few Physicians using oxytocin to treat grief.
Thus, I feel compelled to get this information out to the public
even though the public will need to involve their health-care providers to cooperate
in following through on the suggestions I make.
now available in Kindle Version too