Peer to use House of Lords speech to reveal relative's addiction to prescription drug
By Jeremy Laurance, Health editor
Saturday, 31 October 2009
As early as 30 years ago, the addictive properties of tranquillisers such as Valium were known, but critics maintain the Government is still not doing enough to help
The Department of Health has launched a review of the million-plus patients addicted to prescribed drugs in the UK in a tacit admission that attempts to control the problem over the last two decades have failed.
An estimated 1.5 million people are addicted to prescription and over-the-counter drugs including benzodiazepine tranquillisers, sleeping pills such as zoplicone - implicated in the death of Hollywood star Heath Ledger - and painkillers containing codeine.
The review, which began in July, was disclosed in a Westminster hall debate last June but has not been formally announced. It followed a report by the House of Commons all-party group on drugs misuse which called for better training for doctors in the risks of over-prescribing, greater awareness of the scale of addiction and more centres for treatment....
Case study: 'My life has been shattered'
Matthew (not his real name), was prescribed Efexor, an antidepressant, and Clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, to help him sleep following the failure of a business venture in 2001.
He was living abroad but returned to Britain where the prescription was continued. “For seven years I was fine. I didn’t really think about the pills, I took them as vitamins. It was something I did at the end of the day.”
Earlier this year increasing fatigue prompted him to try and withdraw from them. His doctor advised a “cold turkey” approach involving a few days in hospital, after which he would be drug free.
“I went in as a happy confident person and in two days I was a train wreck. I felt I had woken up in a horror film, I couldn’t walk or think and I had lost my memory. It was indescribable torture.”
Nine months on, he is still trying to put his life back together. Married with two children, he has been unable to return to work.
“I am still terrified of going outside, I can’t think straight or concentrate and I have very bad depression. Every single stimulus seems scary and heightened. It is absolutely extraordinary a prescription drug can do this to you. My life has been shattered.”
“There is nowhere for me to go for support except to other sufferers on the internet and one or two people who have set up support groups round the country.”
“I have seen several doctors since and they cannot believe my doctor kept me on these drugs for seven years. I have lodged a formal complaint about him.”
UPDATE - JAMA: Antidepressant meta-analysis reveals 22 years of deception; treatment worthless for most
"The full magnitude of severe harm produced by these drugs in otherwise healthy people for whom antidepressants were misprescribed has not yet been fully collated--the human casualties include thousands of drug-induced suicides, mania, drug-exacerbated depression, drug dependence, birth defects..."
It is possible withdraw from medication without doing harm to yourself.
The Ashton Manual - Dr. Heather Ashton re Benzos/Tranquillizers
Halting SSRI's - Dr. David Healey - PDF re Antidepressants
Icarus Project Harm reduction guide to coming off psychiatric drugs