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Covid patients being given anti-anxiety pills to aid sleep, stabilise heart rate

RIMS doctors say 2 to 3 per cent of those admitted need psychotropic drugs

Our Correspondent Ranchi Published 24.08.20, 05:40 PM
Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi

Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi Telegraph picture

Doctors at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi are relying on anti-anxiety pills to treat stress-induced sleeplessness and panic in some Covid-19 patients under their charge.

The pills, generally prescribed to people suffering from anxiety disorders, depression and insomnia, are only administered to those patients who were overwhelmed by the fear of death after testing positive for the SARS-COV-2 virus, doctors said.


“We have some patients who are facing psychological issues induced by the fear of not being able to survive the infection. Most of them have not shown any symptoms of the virus, but are suffering from sleeplessness and panic attacks,” said the coordinator of Covid-19 task force at RIMS, Dr. Prabhat Kumar, on Monday.

However, the administration of anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepine and alprazolam was not only aimed at providing relief to patients from stress, but also to ensure that their heart rate does not shoot up due to anxiety, doctors said. The viral infection, they added, affected the functioning of lungs, and an anxiety-induced elevation in heart rate of a patient may cause further complications or even death.

“We are administering anti-anxiety pills to about 2 to 3 per cent of patients in our ward every day. There were some patients who needed the pills initially, but they were stable even without medications later,” said Dr. Kumar.

Another hypothesis that supports the administration of psychotropic drugs to some Covid patients was the relation between cortisol level and its effect on the immune system of a person. Cortisol is stress hormone, which shoots up when a person is scared, anxious or in stress. Since a person’s immune system plays the most important role in recovering from the viral infection, doctors say that keeping cortisol level low was essential in effective treatment.

While cases of anxiety, depression and mood disorders have increased among healthy individuals across the country during the pandemic, the psychological symptoms are aggravated when a person suffering from some or the other mental disorder gets infected by Covid-19 virus, say psychiatrists.

“Mood disorders were common in kin of Covid patients, so we can imagine the extent to which it affects the patient,” said Dr Siddharth Sinha, senior resident at Ranchi Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS).

As per government records, the Covid tally in Jharkhand crossed the 30,000 mark this week and the tally in Ranchi alone was above 5,000. The increase in the number of cases has also triggered an increase in mental health issues, say doctors, adding that the best way to deal with the infection was to have a methodical approach and not panic.

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