Benzodiazepines cause central nervous system damage and brain damage; they also cause psychiatric problems, memory impairment, Alzheimer’s and even elevate the risk of lung cancer. Some of us have been rendered unable to walk or even lift our heads. There is no clinical benefit whatsoever (other than avoiding discontinuation syndrome) in taking these medications for longer than two to four weeks. Yet people taking benzos are walking around unaware of these facts and that they could be the victims of a preventable medical disaster which has been discussed in Parliament and the media for more than forty years. It would seem reasonable that the Department of Health would be shouting this information from the rooftops to warn patients. That we’d have publicly funded adverts on TV to warn the estimated 40-60 % of patients who have been prescribed benzodiazepines long term and who could be affected. Yet the reality is it is the patients themselves who have been damaged who are having to speak out. Both patients and their doctors put their symptoms down to something else. Those who withdraw go through unimaginable human suffering and some are left permanently brain damaged and/or unable to walk. The Department of Health still brand the victims as misusers and media articles still use the word “addiction” which is innacurate and feeds doctors’ and patients’ false beliefs about any problems with these drugs being down to the patients’ “addictive personalities”. This is false. We are victims in the same way as those affected by Thalidomide. Many die. Many have their whole lives destroyed.
What we need.
Those of us who have tapered off benzos and have developed brain and central nervous system damage want our doctors to be aware that this can happen, to stop disbelieving us and to support us without doing us further chemical harm. Everyone in withdrawal deserves help with well-informed information. Some require 24/7 care. That should be paid for by the state. An Independent Inquiry is urgently needed and victims need to get justice. A helpline has been called for by the APPG and will almost certainly be rejected. A helpline is in any case a vastly inadequate solution for a major public health disaster.
What can doctors do?
Believe your patient.
Read the Ashton manual and follow its advice.
Advocate for patents affected.
Never cold turkey or de – register a patient.
Where misdiagnosis have taken place correct those errors.
Help them with benefits / welfare
There is a need for even a handful of doctors to sue the Department of Health and/or the BMA and the Pharmaceutical Industry for placing them in the position of unwittingly damaging their patients sometimes to the point of death. Bodies such as the BMA are still resistant to sharing their knowledge on this subject with their membership as they deem it “inappropriate”. Unfortunately only legal action will change this.
Patents who have been rendered this severely ill should not have to campaign from bed and lobby the media. They should not have to sue their doctors. Their doctors should sue the relevant bodies. Until something is done patients will continue to suffer and die.
“How can we make our health care system work? Michel Foucault argues that a doctor’s first task, before seeing patients, rendering a diagnosis, and offering treatment, is a political one. Specifically, he suggests that doctors must first ‘begin with a war against bad government’ .” The Benzodiazepine medical disaster victims badly need doctors, politicians and the media to do this.
This post will be updated regularly. Please post below your thoughts on what is currently wrong and what we need.