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Tranquillisers
A pharmacy
Your Stories about Tranquilliser Dependency
I was on diazepam/valium for 22yrs from 1968. During the eighties I had it confirmed by That's Life that I was addicted to these drugs, which I had suspected for a long time. I was on 40mg/day. Having come off them (which wasn't easy) I tried to sue the Roche company but was told that because I was no longer on these drugs and had come off them with no help, I'd have a difficult time proving drug addiction. It saddens me that so many people are being let down by the medical profession.
Michael McKenzie
Malvern

I have mild mental imbalance and have tried psychiatric help, various drugs etc. I have managed to cut down all my medications to just temazepam tablets for sleeping. I find no side effects to this mild and extremely helpful drug and it enables me to lead a fairly normal life, that is go to work etc. Without help I cannot sleep and it makes normal life difficult. Please do not patronize people like myself by suggesting that a little relaxation technique will do instead as chemical imbalances cannot be wished away. I know some doctors prescribe these drugs incorrectly, but if all drugs that were proven to be wrongly prescribed were banned there would be no prescription medications left on offer. If the staff of Panorama believe that all drugs that can cause addiction should be banned or very strictly controlled why are you not making programmes trying to get alcohol banned. I agree we have a very poor medical services who use prescriptions for everything but some of the reasons for this is that there is really no money provided for alternative treatments that could be helpful. What is going to happen to so many people like myself if you have your way. I will have to go onto some far worse anti-depressant or seek illegal help on the streets from sedative drugs such as cannabis as I cannot afford to live without working. Leave us poor neurotic people our only line of legal help. Go and do some good where it is needed such as illegal drugs being sold in our schools. One last lie you mentioned is the cost to the health service. I pay 6.20 for my Temazepam and I believe the cost is way below that as this is one of the cheapest drugs on offer. May I add that I am not the only not-addicted person I know who uses these tablets for sleep. Still I am sure you all feel happy thinking you are fighting evil in our society just keep on dreaming.
Jane Doe

BDZ addicts are scared to ask their GP if their tablets are doing them harm for fear of them being stopped

Janet Kerr
I would like to reiterate and emphasise all that Stan Coombes of Horsham wrote in his E-Mail. There is so much the public wasn't told in the programme last night. Your Panorama producer and reporter have a history in Scotland of not understanding addiction, dependence, withdrawal or its aftermath. Is there no one at the BBC with enough perception to do a proper in depth programme on BDZ addiction, the devastation it is causing to lives, marriages and families, the amazing difficulty of withdrawing completely, and the hidden cost to the NHS and to Society. BDZ addicts are scared to relate mental problems to their GP for fear of being locked away! BDZ addicts are scared to "cut down" because they know they can't function without tablets and think they won't get them! BDZ addicts are scared to ask their GP if their tablets are doing them harm for fear of them being stopped! The whole truth is yet to come and if anyone at the BBC still thinks that they have public service duty and is prepared to investigate the scope of BDZ damage and the real cost to the community properly, good and well, alternatively, my husband and I will be happy to make a more definitive programme for you for nothing.
Janet Kerr

Excellent programme which covered the subject well. All that was missing was a more complete presentation of the dreadful after effects of withdrawal from dependency on prescription drugs such as diazepam. I was fed diazepam and a cocktail of other pills for thirty years and five years ago voluntarily stopped following advice in an article reprinted from an American medical journal. Five years on I have chronic pains in my legs which apparently defy diagnosis by UK GP's but is documented in the USA. In my opinion far too little work has been done in this area and it will be difficult to get people to withdraw unless they know that support is in place to cope with the after effects.
Ray Griggs
Margate

I have taken Nitrazepam every night for 32 years. Without them I could not sleep so why all the fuss. I am most grateful to the many understanding GPs who enable me to have a good quality of life.
M Jones
Liverpool

Do you know that there are 100's of people taking antidepressants who cannot get off of them. I know someone who has been on them for 11 years and nobody knows how to get him off of them. He was not reviewed by the GP regularly either just given repeat prescriptions. There is a professor called Charles Medawar who is campaigning about this problem. There are 100's of people on the internet all complaining of bad side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
Janice Simmons
Huntingdon, Cambs

I wish I had known you were doing a survey on tranquillisers because I've been on Ativan/lorazepam for, wait for it... over 20 years - many different doctors kept giving me them and now I'm dependent on them.
Ray Jenkins
Folkestone

I watched the programme and wondered why GPs do not prescribe the anti-depressant drug "Seroxat" for patients, instead of tranquillisers, when treating depression and anxiety attacks. I take it myself, as do many others in this country, and this drug is not addictive.
Anonymous
Voorschoten, The Netherlands

The programme was biased, scare-mongering and unscientific. Whilst it is true that some people are genuine victims of inappropriate benzodiazepine prescribing, the real incidence of cases that can be blamed at the door of G.P.'s is fractional to what was implied. I have frequently been sworn at and threatened by a sub-group of people who demand such medications; the eight minutes in a consultation that society has given me and my colleagues to sort their problems is a laughably inadequate amount of time to dissuade them from further drug use. It is my experience that this group of people are the first to complain when, despite being warned, they realise they are dependant. Your programme did not touch on this. A second point; if benzo use is so widespread did it not cross your mind that a sizable proportion of people are benefiting? I know from clinical practice that this is true as there a many individual situations where patients' lives are vastly improved over many years by these medications. Of course this would make a less populist broadcast, and require a kind of integrity that has not been evident on Panorama for many years. Why does a public broadcaster persistently discredit one of the hardest working professions whose numbers are dwindling to crisis levels?
Jonathan Pash
Hove

Why is no publicity given to the many people who have found benzodiazepines to be invaluable? This includes their long-term use. As for myself, benzodiazepines aided my recovery from severe anxiety state, depression and phobias.
I have been working at getting off these for 2 years off and on and it is the hardest thing I have ever done

Rand, Vancouver
Far from becoming addicted I had no problems whatsoever in stopping them abruptly when I felt I no longer needed them. I used sleeping tablets including Mogadon for three years and simply stopped them when I got better. I occasionally still take a diazepam if I need to. Far from "impairing my cognitive functions" I used diazepam at times whilst studying for my degree - and gained distinctions in almost every course! I now have a first class BSc(hons) and several professional qualifications! I always combined my self-medication with non-medical self-help techniques. I am most grateful to those GPs who gave me repeat prescriptions and allowed me to choose what was best for my-self. Benzodiazepines help me stay out of hospital and also to keep a job on many occasions.
Christina Young
Liverpool

It is rare to find any useful help out there from the same doctors that prescribed these things to millions of people over the years, including me. I have been working at getting off these for 2 years off and on and it is the hardest thing I have ever done. But there is a new resource now available by Prof Heather Ashton, the same one who was interviewed on the show. Here is an internet link to her new manual called Benzodiazepines, How They Work and How to Withdraw - http://members.dencity.com/ashtonpapers. And here is a web site with links to all known web sites on benzos - http://www.geocities.com/benzowebsites. In my opinion what's needed is a bigger lawsuit than the one a few years ago which had 17,000 benzo addicted plaintiffs. Thank you BBC for revealing part of the horrible scandal perpetrated on innocent people by the drug companies and their jobbers and revealing the irresponsibility shown by many prescribing physicians who are too lazy to be patient with the addicts they have created. Beware if your doctor wants to take you off these things too fast as it will only compound the problem.
Rand
Vancouver B.C.

I believe I am one of the longest addicts of Lorazepam, I started taking them in 1974 following a car accident and finished taking them in 2000 (26 years). I was 18 when I was first prescribed them and the effect upon my life has been devastating, like others I thought I was going out of my mind, a fact my doctor was only too willing to agree with. At one point I was prescribed 10mg a day and even as late as 1980 I was told to take more when I felt anxious. I tried various methods to end my addiction including my doctor making me go through cold turkey which nearly killed me, when this failed I was told that it had nothing to do with the tablets and that I had a personality disorder. I eventually succeeded via a method used by MIND in Sheffield, which I believe to be by far the best method. I noticed a lady in the programme who was cutting the tablets down into small pieces, this is OK but eventually you can't cut them any smaller and withdrawal is very difficult. The best method and one that was not discussed, is to have the tablets ground into powders that can be made in ever decreasing doses - my last dose was a powder that was 0.08mg. This method provides the best results with the minimum of withdrawal. What I should also like to say is that their seems to be a lack of understanding as to the long term effects of taking these drugs. I feel that there is probably permanent physical damage, there is definitely long term psychological damage. I am forty five and I can't remember what it was like when I was 18, I can't remember a time when my life was not governed by fear. I may function in society, but that does not mean I can lead a normal life. However I find that the medical profession believes that now I no longer take these drugs, that I am back to full fitness. All the support I received, was from MIND and I had to actively seek that out. I was offered no support from anywhere and yet if I was an Heroin addict, I would have had masses of help and support.
Gerald Sables
Doncaster

Having seen the programme on tranquillisers I realised I've been on Lorazepam for 25 years, I'm an addict because of them, but I only realised this when I saw the programme.
Patricia Morris
Sheffield

My doctor prescribed Librium continuously for 10 years in the 70-80s after a minor bout of anxiety. My memory is permanently impaired over that period.
Gill Dunn

It is high time the drug companies were held accountable and something positive was done

Jane Hutton, Leeds
I was prescribed Lorazepam at 16. I am now aged 44 and have been off tranquillisers for two years, after a GP suggested that I had perhaps been on them too long! After suffering most of my life with Agoraphobia and Panic Attacks, I cannot believe that this drug is still manufactured. It is high time the drug companies were held accountable and something positive was done. How many people have to lose their quality of life and battle so hard, with little help to regain it, before someone says stop.
Jane Hutton
Leeds

I have been on this medication for 34 years, yes 34 years, and all because I had a small concern in 1967. All doctors told me was to keep taking the meds. One year ago I started to find out that I didn't need it. BUT to get off it is a serious job, people need help and advice. I nearly died of going into convulsions as I didn't know enough about how to withdraw, I'm still in a very serious condition called derealization , the Dr. said it was like stopping smoking, I nearly killed my self
John

I have Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia and use a benzodiazepine on an occasional, "as needed", basis. For me it is the only drug that has ever worked to alleviate the terrible symptoms associated with this disorder. I have read widely on the subject of benzos and anxiety, both academic papers and anecdotal evidence. I have to say that I regard this current outbreak of scaremongering about benzos to be misplaced. In the US, many observers make a clear distinction between "addiction", which can be characterised by the user abusively taking larger doses and enjoying the buzz and "dependence" which implies that without the medication a person would experience symptoms of the underlying illness. Some anxiety sufferers may need to take benzos for ever. If their quality of life is significantly improved... then where is the problem? Would anyone be equally disapproving of a diabetic's life long need for Insulin? I would also like to point out that in the US, the benzo Xanax (Alprozolam) is the only medication approved by the FDA for the treatment of Panic Disorder. Contrary to the depiction in the programme, my GP knows nothing about the use of Xanax in the treatment of anxiety and has been scared by propaganda into refusing to prescribe it. Therefore, I test the limits of legality by buying it on the Net from overseas. I would much prefer that my medication was under supervision but I have no choice. My GP's lack of training and knowledge about benzos worries me far more than their responsible use to provide relief.
Steve
West Yorkshire

I've taken Diazepam for panic attacks for the last 7 years. Without them I wouldn't be able to travel. I suffer from bouts of depression for which I take Prozac and it is carefully monitored. I have never felt the need to continue with the Diazepam other than these moments. I'm obviously a rarity as I have an understanding Doctor and it would seem my medication is 'just right'. However, I found the results of the programme alarming and firmly put the blame on doctors who obviously have no understanding of mental health. Is it really that easy to prescribe 'another dose' rather than correctly treat the illness?
Susannah
UK

My mother died 28 years ago of an "accidental" barbiturate overdose, leaving behind 3 children who have never really recovered from her loss, or the strange and disturbing world of uppers and downers that we experienced as very young children. She was originally prescribed Purple Hearts following a domestic violence incident in the 1950's, and this began the "pills to get up, pills to go to sleep" rollercoaster. When she died, she was taking Mogadon at night and other drugs to function during the day, all with the approval and often insistence of her doctors. I am writing because I miss her, and it seems very possible that these pills were prescribed for 20 years so that she could be coped with, not so she would be helped. She died in 1973 when I was 10 years old and is no longer here to tell her story. I have lived with the result of her addiction to prescription drugs ever since.
Anon
Berkhamsted

I was left unmonitored on benzos for 17 years. Withdrawal was a nightmare - hallucinations & mania.
No person, regardless of their initial mental health problems deserves the horror of benzodiazepine withdrawal

Gill Stephens, Brighton
Within 2 years I was back in post as a college lecturer. I am appalled that the drug companies are not taken to task & forced to pay compensation. All medical experts now agree that they are addictive. No person, regardless of their initial mental health problems deserves the horror of benzodiazepine withdrawal. The programme trivialised the extent and nature of the unnecessary suffering that they cause. Why doesn't the government act now!
Gill Stephens
Brighton

I have been on valium for 37 years and still no help. Doctors don't care for your health
John Yaxley
Kent

My Mother took tranquillisers for over 20 years. But heroically getting herself off them 10 years ago. It has taken many years to be free of the memories. She understands and sympathises with the problem.
David Morris
Droitwich

I found the Panorama programme extremely one sided I have been taking diazepam for over twenty years. The only problem I have is the 'top up effect'. The drug has helped combat my IBS and so doing hold down a reasonable job. Programmes like tonight's only make me more anxious (and I imagine others like me) in the fear that my supply will be stopped. I do not know of any alternative and goodness knows I've tried a few dozen. I think it highly irresponsible not to show the good effects even for long term 'addicts' and feel the programme has certainly done me no favours.
Concerned
Abingdon, Oxon

I'm 28 and I was offered Tranquillisers by my local GP over a year ago. It came about as I have not been sleeping properly for a few years and I decided to go to my GP and seek his advice. His first reaction to my horror was to offer me Tranquillisers. I subsequently refused to affect this as a valid prescription which he seemed fine with and offered me other forms of treatment that could help with my lack of sleep. He did however offer to write me a script for Tranquillisers whenever I felt desperate enough to take them. I was not happy with the outcome of my visit to my GP. After this visit I have been very wary of going to see him on other matters in case the topic should ever occur again, as I still suffer from a lack of sleep, but I'm coping. I turned down his offer of Tranquillisers as I remembered watching the "That's Life" programme on the subject in the 80's. If I hadn't have remembered that they were additive I too may now be hooked on Tranquillisers. I really do hope that some good comes out of this programme as it was very well made and I hope that it makes GP's stop and think before they just hand out these kinds of drugs without a backward glance as my GP tried to do with me.
Maria Wong
Notts

Why don't any programmes on the subject of Benzodiazapines shown on the television tell the story of those/us that are left with the horrendous side affects for years after full withdrawal from these drugs. There is as many as 300 plus side affects that can occur and most have a very extreme affect on the individual with some life threatening. The depression is so severe that very many of these involuntary addicts commit suicide because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Why doesn't the programme that you portray as supposedly for and to help the people of this country show the devastation caused by these drugs and not the pathetic description of addiction that was shown last night on your Panorama programme.
Stan Coombes
Horsham

I was very interested but horrified at the findings in your programme. I was prescribed Valium type drugs for about 10 years, having no idea these were addictive until the That's Life programme. I was left entirely on my own to get off the drugs and only got the courage to do so when That's Life informed me that what I was suffering was not an illness but an addiction. So I knew that if only I could stick it out, I should beat it in the end. Which I did!!
H Kemmett
Stroud

I have worked as a GP since 1952 so I think that I have understanding of the tranquilliser problem. Even before computerisation there were always doctors who preferred to give repeat prescriptions rather than try to help patients deal with their problems. Since computerisation this tendency has become infinitely worse. It is so easy to sign a repeat script. Only better education of patients and doctors will help. However, there is no evidence that tranquilliser addiction will not be replaced by some other addiction, e.g. alcoholism.
Ben Ross
Burgess Hill

I posted a message on your board the other day. I got a reply from Pam.
I feel so alone and helpless

Daniel, London
I am now more scared of the drugs than I was before, especially as I am told that I have done it the wrong way by coming off the anti-depressant before Diazepam. I keep think that I only take 4mg a day so I shouldn't get too much withdrawal but on your programme it seemed that you don't need to be taking a high dosage to have bad withdrawal. I feel really panicky today. I feel so alone and helpless and to be honest I find my doctor not much help at all, to be honest I don't know what to do next.
Daniel
London

My nearest and dearest has been prescribed mogadon for more than 20 years. Repeat prescriptions all too easily obtained - no questions ever. Your expose has resulted in my closest person throwing away her remaining mogadon tabs. I have written to GP questioning everlasting sanction of these dreadful soul-destroying drugs. Thank you a million fold for this programme.
Robin Orr Ewing
Bath

My husband (aged 53) has been taking tranquillisers for more than 20 years. In the late 1970s, Ativan was prescribed for Manic behaviour. He became so dependent on them that even the highest possible dose was not enough. In 1991 he went on a 3 week programme at a private hospital (paid for by my company's private health scheme) and he was weaned off them, but put on Valium. These he still takes and we feel they are no longer working for him. He has been unable to work since the mid 1980s. Have you any suggestions as to what he can do next? Many thanks for highlighting this major problem.
Sue Neville
St Albans

Peoples' lives have been ruined as a result of taking benzodiazepines. They've caused untold misery to the victim and their families. God knows what permanent damage these drugs may have caused. To add insult to injury, resources are not being made available, and its time plans were implemented as a major priority in order to give these people the help and support they so desperately need to come off these drugs safely. Doctors today are nothing short of drug lords, and I'm disgusted that they haven't heeded the warnings given out about tranquillisers years ago. Doctors and the pharmaceutical companies have a lot to answer for.
Geraldine Lyons
Birmingham

I have been taking Nitrazapam for 20 years, I can't stop taking them

Rosemary Bennett, South Wales
Why are doctors still prescribing these "old", addictive drugs for anxiety/insomnia, when there are the "new", non-addictive SSRI's that will do the job equally as well, if not better? I have taken both PAROXETINE and SERTRALINE for anxiety, and related insomnia, both worked excellently to cure both...(as the anxiety eased, my sleep-pattern returned to normal), and I had little trouble "coming off" both of them.... Admittedly the anxiety eased firstly, then the sleep improved (i.e. it was not an "instant" cure for either), and the insomnia DID take longer, and was more gradual to cure, but at the other end of story, this "gradual" process was repeated in that it was relatively easy to gradually cut them down and eventually stop them altogether.
Tracey
Birmingham

I have been taking Nitrazapam for 20 years, I can't stop taking them. When I was given them by a hospital Doctor I was told that they were to relax me so that I could sleep. I was not told anything about them being addictive, obviously I have found out that they are highly addictive. If I do not take them my whole body shakes to such an extent that I cannot hold a cup of tea in my hand. I also get terrifying dream's, there is much more that I can tell you about them.
Rosemary Bennett
South Wales

I watched the programme on Panorama last night, I have been on 1mg of Lorazepam a day for the past 2 years, I've have also been on 75mg of dothiepin for the last 6 months... while I can admit that I am probably addicted to lorazepam it occurred to me whilst watching the programme that most patients who are/ have suffered using benzodiazepines...were in actual fact probably suffering from depression from the outset and therefore were prescribed the wrong treatment i.e. : they should have been prescribed Anti-depressant (of which are not addictive) instead. Also I do take great care when taking prescribed medicine, and always read the accompanying leaflets that come with my medicine. These leaflets give all the relevant info , even on side effects, prolonged usage etc: it's not only is the responsibility of doctors but also of the patients to read these leaflets.
David Wright
London

I do not think the TV programme displayed all sides of benzo addiction. I am aware many GP's want to stop prescribing this drug but have no support i.e. CITA counsellors. The letter sent to patients offering no extra support is of little use in inner city areas, where many patients cannot read, do not understand the letter, or do not want to stop taking the drugs.
If the government knows these drugs to be harmful why are they allowing them to be dispensed

Anon, Liverpool
Indeed some are even supplying the illicit drugs market and will refuse the offer of help from their GP. In addition, I am aware that many GPs are not fully aware of the consequences of taking all benzos i.e. Nitrazepam is considered a simple sleeping tablet not having the same side effects as Diazepam. There must be a reason why the Government set out guidelines 13 years ago and GPs are still allowed to prescribe against these guidelines. A major problem is the lack of IT data available. Identifying patients on repeats can be impossible in some practices. If the government knows these drugs to be harmful why are they allowing them to be dispensed. Why have they not implemented resources to help patients come off the drugs. It takes more than a guideline. Other resources must be put in place for the duration of withdraw which going off the TV programme could take years to successfully withdraw. It is not all one sided - GPs need help as well and that help must come in the shape of financial input to resource CITA counsellors. However, if systems are not in place to distinguish new users from occasional and long-term users the problem will not go away. Indeed it will not 'die' off which is one method some GPs are using to reduce their prescribers, i.e. they are waiting for those patients who have been addicted for 20+ years to die because it is easier to give a 2 minute prescription rather than seeing a demanding patient for 20 minutes a visit every day until they get what they demand.
Anon
Liverpool

After 30 years addiction I finally withdrew from Tranxa year ago, I had no help whatsoever and no support since withdrawal. Why doesn't the Health service set up clinics for addicts wishing to withdraw? and as I see it the drug companies haven't spent one penny to help addicts
Derek Stackhouse
Porthcawl

My uncle was prescribed Atavan over 25 years ago. The doctor then prescribed practically every other drug that was mentioned on your fantastic insight in to this brushed under the carpet crime. He is agoraphobic, intense mood swings and all the symptoms the programme mentioned.
Alan Dawkins
Salisbury

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