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AIDS related dementia and substance abuse

Mar 14, 2003

My husband has AIDS and I am negative. He's also had AIDS related dementia for about 5 years. Two years ago he had an arrhythmia attack, and was in a coma for a week. He was a different person after that. He started using illicit drugs again. He is now in rehab, and still craving drugs. Part of his mind seems to be stuck in the 1970s, which was the height of his addiction. Please tell me how to help him.

Response from Dr. Horwath

Having an arrhythmia and being in a coma puts a person at high risk for brain damage due to anoxia (insufficient oxygen to the brain). I don't know if this happened to your husband, but if he has suffered some aggravation of his dementia, this certainly could affect his judgment and impulse control, and lead to destructive behavior, like illicit drug use.

People with dementia and severe memory impairment also sometimes regress to behaviors from earlier in their lives. Probably, the best way to help him is to help him stay away from illicit drugs.

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