The 11 July 2016 will be the inaugural World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day, part of a campaign to raise global awareness about the issue of doctor-induced benzodiazepine dependency, which affects millions of people worldwide and can lead to debilitating withdrawal symptoms that often last for years. You can buy t-shirts in support of this campaign here.
A groundbreaking article for The Province is “sounding the alarm over the heightened risk of death linked to the use of psychiatric drugs.” They report on two studies, published this month, that studied the connection between benzodiazepines and mortality. "The interesting thing about this is that it's a prescription drug and people think they're safe," a doctor told the paper. "But as it turns out, we're probably prescribing these drugs in a way that's leading to harm."
“In a bid to raise awareness towards the global epidemic of abuse on Benzodiazepine or ‘benzos’ abuse, a global campaign dubbed as World Benzo Awareness Day (WBAD) has been gaining ground,” Morning News USA reports. “I have seen so many people suffering, committing suicide because they cannot tolerate the prolonged withdrawal reactions and the damage done to them any longer, and there is very little, if any, help available to them.”
Today, organizers have released a statement announcing a "World Benzo Awareness Day" to take place on Monday, 11th July 2016. "This day has been made necessary due to decades of inaction on the part of global governments over the most serious of public health issues - that is doctor induced benzodiazepine drug dependency and associated iatrogenic damages." See the full statement below.
The hearing for Bill H4062: Informed Consent for Benzodiazepines and Non-benzodiazepine Hypnotics took place on Monday – in the middle of an April snowstorm! The discussion clarified some important points in the legislation and gave survivors an opportunity to tell their stories. I was so proud to be there and witness the courage, camaraderie, resilience, advocacy, and vulnerability of fellow survivors. This legislation is our chance to be heard. As one survivor said, through tears, to the committee, “Do not let my suffering be in vain. I beg you to pass this bill.”
The Massachusetts Benzo Bill H4062: Informed consent for benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics was just scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse on Monday, April 4th. Less than a week away! The committee will decide whether the bill moves forward to the house and senate, goes to study, or is denied.
As the benzodiazepine crisis spreads throughout the United States and other parts of the world, so does the debate within the benzo victim/survivor community. We know that it can be terribly invalidating to label and treat a person as a “drug addict” who is only physically dependent on benzos — and taking these drugs exactly as prescribed by a doctor. However, it can be equally invalidating to deny that “iatrogenic benzo dependence” intersects in multiple ways in the lives of people struggling with “addiction.” People will ALSO SUFFER when yanked off of their benzos, or forced into similar rapid tapers when a doctor becomes aware of their addiction history.
On February 24th, 2016 Bill HD4554 – An Act relative to benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics was filed by Representative Paul McMurtry in the Massachusetts State House. The bill received 47 co-sponsors during the seven-day open period in which legislators can co-sponsor. This is an impressive and promising turnout.
When I was born, everyone was expecting me to have arms. The doctor’s mind raced; how am I going to tell this mother and the father that their son has hands but not arms? If he’s missing so much in his extremities, mustn’t he also be missing a mind? My mom looked into my eyes and knew – in a way that only mothers know – that I had a mind, and spirit.
A large study of the population in Taiwan reveals that long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs, commonly prescribed for anxiety, significantly increases the risk for brain, colorectal, and lung cancers. The research, published open-access in the journal Medicine, also identifies the types of benzodiazepines that carry the greatest cancer risk.
Last year the British Medical Association (BMA) released a report on dependence and withdrawal from prescription drugs including benzodiazepines, z-drugs, opioids, and antidepressants. Now, in light of their findings, the BMA is commiting to changes to medical practice, policy, and research.
“Health Commissioner Leana Wen will join other health directors across the country today in asking the federal government to require a ‘black box warning’ when prescribing opioids with a class of drugs called benzodiazepines,” reports the Baltimore Sun. “The health directors believe the combination of drugs are helping to drive the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses.”
A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health calls for policy level interventions to reduce the use of benzodiazepines, drugs commonly prescribed for anxiety, after presenting data on their increased use and the high rate of overdose deaths. Tracking medical data from 1996 to 2013, the researchers conclude the benzodiazepine prescriptions and overdose deaths have increased considerably.
On November 12th, 2015, the third anniversary of the day that I abruptly stopped taking benzodiazepines, my dear friend, J. Doe, published a two-part article here on Mad in America examining the language that is commonly used to describe benzodiazepine (benzo) iatrogenesis. I wanted a summary of these articles captured in a Youtube video so that those in the thick of benzo neurotoxicity could tune into these ideas in a way that might be more easily digestible. I hoped more benzo sufferers would begin to question how they describe (and allow others to describe) an illness that remains decades behind in understanding and recognition. I also wanted to draw attention to the content again in hopes that more medical professionals would read and understand the crucial distinctions in language surrounding this problem.
“The anguish, anxiety and nightmares were unbearable,” the former film executive Tod Abrams had wrote in a note to his family. “It was only a month after he had sought help with his addiction to Xanax, a sedative used to treat anxiety, at a $60,000-a-month residential facility run by Caron Treatment Centers in an upscale oceanside neighborhood in Delray Beach.”
Massachusetts Bill HD 4554 needs to gain sufficient state representative support by Tuesday, March 1, 2016. This bill will put restrictions on the prescribing of benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine sleep aids, and will require that all patients be informed of the potential dangers of these drugs, specifically the dangers of long-term use.
A recent review of the research found that benzodiazepine use may have long-term effects on memory and increase the risk for dementia. The study, published in CNS Drugs, calls for greater awareness of these potential risks among prescribers and more research on the mechanisms involved.
“The use of benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, is on the rise, and the number of overdose deaths related to them soared in recent years,” CNN reports. "Much attention has been paid to the explosion of prescription opioid prescribing and the associated morbidity and mortality. Much less attention has been paid to the shadow epidemic of benzodiazepine prescribing and its consequences.”
“Two Scots whose lives have been ravaged by prescription drugs are battling for recognition of the devastating withdrawal issues as well as proper support for victims,” the Daily Record reports. “Health Secretary Shona Robison has now agreed to ask chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood to investigate the claims.”
In a scathing editorial in this month’s Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Dr. Giovanni Fava takes aim at prominent medical experts who have downplayed the role of financial conflicts of interest (FCOI) in medical research and practice. Fava retraces the development of the problem, the mechanisms of "propaganda" that allow conflicts to flourish, and offers suggestions for reform, including a call to boycott commercialized medical education programs and professional societies.
Psychologist and Professor Amber Gum has published the story of her personal journey of rethinking psychotropic medication in a special issue on "The Politics of Mental Health" in The Journal of Medicine and the Person. Influenced by Mad in America and the work of Robert Whitaker, Gum became aware of evidence that “suggests that psychotropic medications are less effective and more harmful than most believe” and now hopes to encourage other mental health professionals and researchers to engage in open-minded, critical self-assessment of standard practices.
Following a lawsuit brought by Andrew Thibault of Parents Against Pharmaceutical Abuse (PAPA), the FDA has produced adverse event and severe adverse event reports on psychotropic medications. For the first time ever, these reports have been published online. Accessing the site linked below, users can perform global searches for AERS reports by drug name (brand and generic) or case number, review reports by drug class, refine searches within each drug class, and examine individual reports.
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