Sunday, August 07, 2011

Versed (midazolam): Avoid This Drug!

I was first given Versed (Ver sed') years ago in New York, for an extremely painful GYN procedure for which the physician needed me to be awake. Versed doesn't relieve pain; it erases the memory of pain. I awoke to find my shins scraped and bleeding. I asked the doctor about it, and he said, "That's from when you tried to get away." I was left with nightmares in which I screamed curses. Versed erases the memory of pain, but only on a superficial level.

Versed is an incredibly popular drug among doctors and hospitals. It's not hard to see why......we can't complain about what we can't remember. They call it a sedative, and it does sedate some people. But it has quite the opposite effect on others. Although I hated what happened to me in that New York hospital, and had a deep distrust of the drug as a result, I was given it several times in the ensuing years for surgical procedures (they administer it prior to the anesthesia) and once for an endoscopy. I've known people (including my gastroenterologist) who underwent their endoscopies without medication. I asked one man what it was like, and he said, "Your experience was the same as mine. The only difference is you can't remember it."

I discovered there was a lot I couldn't remember. The older I got, the more Versed affected my short-term memory. It eventually came back, but it took longer each time. When I had minor surgery in January, I told the anesthesiologist I didn't need to be sedated before the anesthesia. He made a note on my chart and left. Seconds later, a nurse shot something into my IV. I asked her what it was, and she said "Versed."

Four months later, I was scheduled for two cataract operations. I was told I needed to be awake but immobilized for the surgery, so they would use Versed. We discussed this, and they said Versed was the only option. They would use the absolute smallest amount, and assured me it would not cause problems. I'm a proactive (read "annoying") patient, but in this case I didn't know of an alternative to the highly-recommended eye surgeon, and I thought they'd probably use much less Versed than I'd had previously.

I think they did use less, because I can remember both procedures. But in the week between them my memory was impaired, and after the second one it got dramatically worse. On the fifth day after the second surgery, I went to a party. The next day, I could remember the gist of a number of conversations, but not the people I spoke with. My word retrieval wasn't very good, and my thought retrieval was worse. And scarier.

That's not all that was scary. My mental state underwent a dramatic change. I became depressed in the morning and anxious at night. My heart would pound, and I had trouble breathing. This was not at all like me. It was terribly frightening. I wondered if it had anything to do with whatever tick-borne infection I've been fighting.

It lasted about a month, and then gradually improved and disappeared. I was doing the dishes one night when I remembered that some time back I'd seen "agitation" given as a possible side effect of Versed. I dried my hands and went to the computer. There I found every symptom I'd experienced during that awful month—all described by people telling Versed horror stories.

And these stories were truly horrifying. I got off easy, it turns out. Some people talked about side effects that never went away. One woman wrote about her husband, perfectly normal and well-grounded when he went to the hospital for minor surgery, now committed to a locked psych ward.

Ask A Patient has page after page of these stories. Other sites are dedicated to warning people about the dangers of Versed. Just Google Versed horror stories, Versed side effects, or Versedbusters and see what you get. There's a lot of first-person accounts out there, and I can only imagine how many others go unreported. If a side effect (especially this kind of side effect) occurs more than a week after a drug is given, a great many people will never make the connection.

I found several comments suggesting that many medical professionals won't allow the drug to be used on themselves. They're not the only ones. I will never allow it to be used on me again. Actually, I hope I can steer clear of all procedures, surgical and otherwise. I read of people being given Versed despite their orders to the contrary. Remembering that nurse shooting it into my IV, I believe it. Consider this to be my public service announcement. Maybe we need a catchy slogan. How about "Keep Versed Out of Your Head"?

40 comments:

Bridgett said...

What about Lorazapam? I may be spelling that wrong. IT is listed as the alternative in my medications and mothers milk book...

The eye surgery is what throws me. My aunt had an eye REMOVED and was not given this. Nor was she knocked out...which terrifies me too but that's beside the point.

Halcion?

Bleah.

Susan said...

Lorazepam is Ativan, another benzodiazepine. Kind of like an exaggerated form of Valium. I had Valium once before a surgery, and didn't have a problem with it. I was impressed with the feeling of well-being! Still, I don't see the need for everyone to be sedated before surgery.

Benzo withdrawal should be done gradually. I know someone who was taking Ativan regularly and had it abruptly withdrawn by an ignorant doctor when she was hospitalized. She had a seizure and a stroke.

The only thing I know about Halcion concerns President Bush (the father) vomiting into the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister.

crystal said...

I've heard bad stories about Valium. too I remember Versed being very popular with the docs when I worked in the surgery. I don't know what I had the few times I've gone under the knife but I hope I never have to do any of that again. Your experience sounds so scary. I hate the way nurses and doctirs refuse to take patients' concerns seriously - the whole system is set up to make everything easier for them, not us.

Indigo Bunting said...

This is incredibly frightening.

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

Horrible and appalling! But thanks for the public service.

Susan said...

I forgot to mention that my appetite disappeared during that period (most unusual for me!), and I lost 10 lbs. over the course of the month. I could well afford to lose them, so that part wasn't bad. But this was another way in which I felt completely unnatural, and that was not good at all.

Anonymous said...

Versed is given for colonoscopies. I have had two colonoscopies. They say the worst thing about a colonoscopy is the prep. This is not true. I came out of the first colonoscopy freaked out and angry, with a partial blockage of the artery to my colon---probably not a result of the colonoscopy, but this was dismissed as "gas pains", and I ended up eventually in the hospital with a fully blocked artery; a life threatening condition. Second colonoscopy, they bashed the living snot out of me and I was covered with purple bruises and big purple handprints on my arms. So never, ever again will I submit to taking that drug, or to having a procedure that requires it. I am still horrified. And yes, I had the memory problems, too. I am glad I found your blog. Bookmarked it.

Susan said...

I'm glad you found my blog, too, but so sorry you had to go through that. When people talk about all that's wrong with our medical system, sometimes I think we don't know the half of it.

Never Again said...

Susan you nailed it when you said we don't know the half of it. I got Versed and never did get amnesia, not did I even know I was supposed to. I know all kinds of things now that go on in surgical suites when these animals think you have amnesia. It was the most singularly horrifying experience of my life, compounded by the severe and long lasting side effects, some of which you describe well. Add homicidal rage, bone deep humiliation, panic attacks and a new found fear and loathing of all things medical and you have an idea of what I went through as well. We can't ALL be wrong in identifying the culprit as Versed!

joani@tds.net said...

I agree about the side and aftereffects of Versed. NOT good. This tome, 10 years after first colonoscopy, I spoke w/Dt.Minkin and was assured I would NOT be sedated. But once I was in the bed the nurses were talking about Versed. At age 73 I can finally make demands for my health and insisted I NOT be given sedation. In theory I wasn;t sedated, since they gave me fentanyl but I was fully awake and fully cognizant of all discomfort(read:pain) which was just fine w/me!
I'm scd=heduled for a cataract op in 3 days and theyhad me down for Versed again. I will not have this, even though the doctor would LOVE me to be sedated if not out "like a light" but the alternaticve uis, apparently, a pill, Ativan. ANYone with credible info about this drug please let me know.

Susan said...

Never Again and Joani, thanks for reading and commenting. Ativan was mentioned in an earlier comment. If I'd been offered it for my cataract surgery, I would have taken it--and prayed for a good outcome. I have no reason to think it would cause a problem, but one never knows.

Anonymous said...

All benzos, valium,ativan etc....especially midazolam (Versed) induce amnesia...which may be very long-term. If your colonoscopy doc "promises" an unsedated exam...be sure to put on the consent: "I'm not consenting to sedation"...it works, trust these idiots nad you will get a Versed chemical lobotomy

Anonymous said...

I always thought that Versed was a safe and effective drug. I no longer believe that it is. I'm ashamed to say this, but Versed is given as a patient-control drug and not for the patient's benefit

Susan said...

Thank you for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not true. Versed is a unique benzo in that it does cause amnesia and it is very short acting. Many of these procedures would not be possible without medications like versed. In the population as a whole benefit definitively outweighs risk

Susan said...

"Absolutely not true"? So you're saying I made this up? Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Never Again said...

OMG! What procedures "would not be possible without medications like Versed"? I don't want to vandalize your blog Susan, but this person is a moron and most likely a health care worker. They THEMSELVES probably can't PERFORM a procedure without their precious Versed, but that certainly does NOT mean that there is even one single procedure that can't be done without it. Patients absolutely don't need it.

As for the "population as a whole" statement, don't these medical workers brag about how they 'individualize' everything for each patient? I am not the population as a whole, and in my humble opinion, the severity of the side effects is too extreme to risk. There is NO BENEFIT in this drug which outweighs the nasty side effects. NOT ONE!

I notice 'anonymous' doesn't list any procedure which can't be done without Versed... Because there aren't any. They also don't list any alleged BENEFITS of getting this drug either... Because there aren't any. (period, end of statement.)

Susan said...

"Vandalize" all you want, Never Again. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Readers, I would be very cautious recommending Ativan as even a possible substitution for Versed. It DESTROYS brain tissue. In 2001, my mom underwent hernia surgery and apparently there were severe complications. Before surgery she was alert, happy, and joking with the nursing staff . . . after surgery . . . breathing tubes and IVs . . . one that troubled me most was a constant drip of Ativan.
I questioned the doctors constantly about her in a "near" coma state during her two weeks in ICU. Was assured that Ativan was safe. BULL . . . on her final evening they called at 11p.m. and suggested I come to the hospital immediately. The ICU doctor presented me with a CatScan of her brain . . . ALL gray matter was dead! This drug ATIVAN is dangerous. Please don't endorse it's use

Michael

Sorry about publishing thru "Anonymous". First time ever responding to a blog.

Susan said...

I'm so sorry about your mother, Michael. I would never recommend Ativan . . . for anything. So many drugs are shockingly overused these days. It really is frightening.

Thank you for reading this entry. I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog..I had a colonoscopy and told the doc that I didn't want Versed. I'm a nures and have seen too many patients get long-term memory impairment from Versed, not to mention seeing the thrash around during a painful exam, soaked in sweat, in severe pain..but the "providers" ignore the patients pleas because the know (or think( that the Versed will cause amnesia (temporary, but hey, that's enough to get the patient out the door),,Versed is a bad drug..why do you see so many patients posting about awful Versed experiences?

Susan said...

It's good to see an opinion from a nurse's perspective. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

(Site admin: this is cc of posting I just put on Askapatient, so I'm letting you know in case you cannot post same here because a violation of policy, etc.)
Have drug allergies & atypical responses to drugs. Had versed for c.scope 4 yrs ago & strong mood swings for 2 wks afterwards causing problems at work. Because some precancerous growths found (am breast cancer survivor) had c.scopy again 1 yr later. Did research & discovered that versed could cause mood issues. Told pre-admission interview nurse, anesthetist, nurse & doc at 2nd scopy I didn't want versed & why. Wrote on anesthesia form NO VERSID OR AMNESIACS. Because I mispelled it? still gave it to me--had detailed post-op talk with doc which my husband witnessed that I have no memory of or of anything for hrs afterwards. Had worse mood swings that took month to get over. Started doing more research for c.scopy scheduled tomorrow & discovered long-term side-effects can be depression & continued memory problems. Have been experiencing those for the past 3 yrs (even therapy/anti-depressants (which didn't help) attributing depression to things that prior to this would not have been problem.) Also, had not had memory issues until then. Now, inability to recall events & conversations (which may have some effect on depression although doesn't account for severity). I feel like my brain has been permanently chemically altered. Decided I will not have this c.scopy because quality of life issue here & obviously cannot just make concerns known verbally/in writing & have them respected by this medical facility, their anesthesia staff, or doc who may have said use it anyway.

Susan said...

Anonymous, I am so sorry you had to go through this. It is simply not right, and I suppose yet another example of one of the many things wrong with our medical system. Misspelled or not, they knew what you meant, but did what they wanted.

Considering the extremely widespread use of Versed in procedures and surgeries, I can't help wondering if it might be contributing to the vast number of prescriptions written each year for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.

Thank you for posting here.

Never Again said...

Susan and anonymous, ever wonder why there is a sharp uptick in dementia and Alzheimers patients? Maybe it's NOT because we are living longer. Could it be that Versed IS causing long term problems? After all, the very reason they poison us with it is to chemically CREATE the same diseases that they now find are approaching epidemic proportions. HMMM A drug that gives you dementia and Alzhiemers allegedly for a short time might cause the exact same syptoms long term? No correlation here...nothing to see...move along now.

Anonymous said...

Let me preface this by saying that I respect anyone's opinion regarding their own experiences and their attempts to make sense of their own medical problems. I do it too... that's why I've visited your blog. Specifically, I'm researching the potential short- and long-term side effects of Versed; however, I'm concerned with some of the comments here, indicating that there are no good reasons for using Versed (given the risks that people here and elsewhere have experienced). Almost all drugs can cause negative side effects for some people. The good thing is to be aware (thanks to blogs like yours) and critically weigh the good vs. the bad.

So here's my situation:

My 84-yo mother just had knee replacement and was given Versed. She had been having issues with mild dementia prior to the surgery already, but during her first day after the surgery, she is REALLY having problems. She doesn't even realize she's in the hospital. We'll tell her, and she'll respond, "Oh... of course." And then 15 mins later she'll not know where she is. That being said, I'm very experienced in caring for someone with Alzheimer's (my father died with it several years ago), so I'm very mindful of watching and assessing her mental state, in anticipation of her potential need for assisted living care or nursing care.

Soooo... the point of my post is with respect to the quote:

"I notice 'anonymous' [another poster] doesn't list any procedure which can't be done without Versed... Because there aren't any."

Well, I'm here to discuss my mom's procedure. I am unaware of any alternatives to Versed in this case, so I'm requesting "Never Again" or anyone else here to provide an alternative. I can't go back in time, but for future purposes, I'd REALLY appreciate hearing viable alternatives.

My mother has COPD, hypertension, and chronic breathing and heart issues, as well as severe social anxiety disorder AND severe fear of medical procedures. She frequently has nightmares days before any doctor appt or procedure. The last two weeks prior to her surgery (incl. the presence of extreme pain) were extremely difficult for her and all of our family's caregivers.

So, general anesthesia is NOT a good option for a geriatric patient with general poor health and chronic pulmonary and cardiac problems. It is considered very risky and unnecessary, given the alternative for her tyoe of surgery: an epidural block.

Her pre-surgery anxiety was very high. I think they gave her valium or another benzodiazepine to calm her, as well as pain relief, so she was in surprisingly good spirits while in pre-op. She had been told that the epidural would keep her awake during the knee replacement, but with her severe medical anxiety, she "didn't want to see or hear or know ANYTHING that was going on." She desperately WANTED to be knocked out, but couldn't be. Therefore, Versed was the obvious choice.

So.... anyone have an alternative(s) in this case?

Never Again said...

Propofol might be a viable alternative. I personally will not allow it because of my extreme reaction to Versed. However I haven't heard of any web pages devoted to the perils of Propofol, on the contrary I have heard nothing but good results from the use of this drug Propofol.

Susan said...

I haven't had anything since my extreme reaction to Versed. Prior to that, I was given Propofol on at least two occasions. No reaction that I'm aware of, although since it, too, is a memory eraser I'd be concerned that some of the memory loss might be permanent, especially for older people (like me).

Never Again said...

Susan, considering how medical people LIE about the effects of anesthesia drugs in particular, I don't trust anything other than pain killers from the Morphine family. (NOT Demerol) I have read quite a bit about the Propofol, and it appears that you are NOT asleep as the medical people claim. I read an article that stated that the "patient cooperation" was greater with Propofol than with Versed. To me that means that Propofol scrambles your brain. Just like Versed. Maybe it doesn't act on the amydala, left frontal lobe and lymbic arch like Versed to cause severe side effects years later, BUT (big but) I am cooperative without drugs...as long as what they are wanting to do is fully explained and agreed to me. I reserve the right to decline general anesthetic or anything else if *I* don't feel it's necessary. This does not mean that I should be shot up with a drug which makes me "cooperate" with things that I decline. Medical people do NOT understand brain function at all. Nobody does. I don't want my brain screwed with unnecessarily.

lavinialuna said...

I just had a Dr. give me Versed yesterday after I told him I didn't want it. He did it anyway! But I didnt' forget. I remember the painful procedure and woke up several times in agony. Not sure what to do, dont' want him to get away with this! I was so angry I left before being discharged. I need to do something, just not sure who to go to. I am so angry. This is my second versed nightmare. The first one I had I woke up on the table upside down hanging from my feet freezing cold, naked and some woman pushing on my stomach really really hard (after childbirth, repairing a tear) and I have phobias because of that. That is why I told this particular Dr. not to use it. It obviously doesn't work on me, it is not a pain reliever, and it is only a cover up for how painful it really is. If they were doing proper pain control, they wouldn't need versed. They probably enjoy that people can't complain about what they can't remember, but surprise, I remember. He will not get away with this. I don't know how to get over the trauma of it all :(

Vicki Taylor said...

Hi wow before reading this my mom just received this yesterday and today bc she is at the last stage of COPD and it was suppose to help her breathing and when the doctor came up to the hospital tonight he was astonished to see her breathing without her bagpap machine email danelle20009@gmail.com

Vicki Taylor said...

He seemed shocked more than anything bc she thought she wld had died by now

Cassandra said...

My 9 year old daughter is having a root canal done and they prescribed her Midazolam. I am completely terrified. We have already tried the laughing gas and she is too anxious for it awake. Does anyone know of a alternative medication I can request?

Susan said...

I've had numerous root canals, and the local anesthetic (novocaine, or something similar) eliminated the pain. Perhaps if she talks to someone who has had a similar experience...? Somehow your daughter must have picked up the idea that root canals are painful. I can't say mine were fun, but I didn't suffer.

I'm sorry, I don't know anything about dental sedation. I hope you can find an answer.

Susan said...

I don't know how, but I missed some of these comments. I'm sorry!

Lavinialuna, something that might help you get over the trauma of your first Versed experience is EMDR, a simple but effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress. It involves eye movements, and can be done by any therapist trained in the method. (There are many.) I hope this will help you.

As for the recent experience of being administered Versed despite your orders, I would complain in writing to the physician, the hospital, and the appropriate medical board. You might also consult with a lawyer about this. Many initial consults are free.

Best of luck to you, and to everyone else who has responded to my blog post.

Anonymous said...

I had versed for a D and C and endometrial ablation. It has been two weeks since my procedure and I am having very vivid dreams/nightmares. Before this procedure I never remembered my dreams. I don't recall "waking" during the procedure but I do recall the excruciating pain immediately after and for several hours after the procedure. I will never consent to this medication again. I was unaware of these side effects. I work in a field where my co-workers administer versed but never had i heard that it could cause these effects. The sad part is a lot of people are given this drug when they are in excruciating pain or presume they will be so fear is what is driving them to their decision.

Never again said...

I have taken Propofol as sedative (and Fentanyl as the analgesic) numerous times for endoscopies and colonoscopies with no problem whatsoever. Once an anesthesiologist added Versed to the mix and I vomited in the OR. Last month I needed to have general anesthesia for the first time in many years. I am allergic to the gas forms of general anesthesia so the anesthesiologist agreed to use ONLY use Propofol to induce and maintain my general anesthesia. He was aware that Versed made me vomit previously. I had been meditating in pre-op was had been very serene but suddenly on the OR table I became trrrified and half-hysterical. I was about to jump from the table when I list awareness.

I don't remember anything for a number of hours -- nothing from post-op or the trip to my room or the 2 hours my husband said he spent with me. My husband saiid I came back from post-op quiet and unresponsive. When I became alert the nurses gave me fluids and I vomited, then developed hiccups for 1-1/2 days and was nauseous for 3 days. Since I couldn't sleep because of the hiccups, about 4 am the night nurse asked me what kind of anesthesia I had and I answered just Propofol. She checked my file and said no, that I had been given Versed with my Propofol and that's what had made me sick and so out of it. Then for the next several weeks I was very depressed and anxious about what had happened in the OR.

I talked to my surgeon about how the anesthesiologist had broken our agreement and given me Versed despite knowing it had made me sick previously. My surgeon made the hospital's anesthesiology department call me to discuss what happened and resolve the situation. We talked for over 30 minutes but they just don't get it. They kept saying everyone gets Versed. I told them I didn't need Versed and shouldn't have received it. The Propofol was providing both the anesthesia and the amnesia. I was calm and relaxed so I didn't need a sedative. And Fentanyl was providing the analgesic. They said Versed helps provide a balanced anesthesia approach and enables them to use less drugs. I asked how when they were adding another drug to the mix unless they were saying Versed was cheaper to administer than Propofol. I later read that <.1-.5% of patients might remember something from their surgery (voices, music, sound of a drill) so Versed is given to everyone to provide amnesia as insurance so patients don't sue? But it's less than .1 to .5% that might have that experience so we all get Versed? And I read that 20% of us experience negative side effects from Versed. I now have Versed listed as a drug allergy on all my medical records and will write that a hospital does not have my consent to provide Versed to me.

Susan said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. The arrogance behind their use of Versed against your wishes is appalling. And dangerous. I'm glad your reaction wasn't even worse than it was. It's scary to think that even when we express our wishes, they go ahead and do whatever they want. I've often thought even if write NO VERSED above my signature when signing permission papers, once I lose consciousness I could just imagine someone thinking she'll never know, and administering it to me anyway. Avoiding surgery and procedures as best I can....