My Successful Campaign for Dedicated Benzo Withdrawal Services

Barry Haslam
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The story starts on the 19th of March, 1986, when I withdrew myself from 30 mgs of Ativan daily and 360 mgs of Opiate painkillers daily—all doctor-prescribed—with no support or assistance, other than the love and full support of my lovely wife Sue. We have now been married for 47 years and I love her to bits.

It took me 15 months of hell on earth to withdraw. So afterwards I researched the issues involved (after my brain had started to function again) and started on the long road of campaigning for dedicated withdrawal services by contacting our local newspaper and telling them my story. Horrifying as the facts read, not only was it a release for me to express my emotions and observations, but it slowly informed the general public of the dangers of long-term prescribed addiction. Benzodiazepines were only ever clinically tested by manufacturers for short-term ingestion, and marketed for short-term usage, i.e; 2 to 4 weeks – and that period included withdrawal. They were simply not designed for years of iatrogenic addiction.

I was given tremendous support over many years by the editor – and one lady journalist in particular – of the Oldham Evening Chronicle. For this I am eternally grateful, and heartfully thank them.
This ‘media bombardment’ started to bear fruit when I was invited by Oldham Primary Care Trust to discuss matters at a meeting with Mr Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health, and Mr Peter Harrison, the PCT’s mental health National Service Framework manager. We had several meetings and quantified the problem in Oldham using Professor C.H. Ashton’s earlier research, and the PCT came up with the stats that Oldham had in late 2003: the large figure of 5,200 long-term prescribed benzodiazepine drug addicts.
Several years hence Mr Higgins was asked by a Minister for Public Health what prompted the PCT’s decision to go ahead and tender for dedicated benzodiazepine withdrawal services in Oldham and his reply was “Barry was a pain in the backside so we had to do something about the issues involved.”  I have the greatest respect for Alan and his colleagues on account of their foresight and courage in leading the way forward and giving hope to thousands of patients.
Oldham is a beacon shining through the gloom of benzo addiction, and that beacon needs to shine in every town and city in England and in every country in the world.
The contract in 2004 was won by Addiction Dependency Solutions and is still current. The ADS service now also withdraws patients addicted to prescribed drugs such as Z drugs, painkillers and SSRIs, and does an enormous amount of good, meaningful work. ADS is a leading UK Drug and Alcohol Charity operating throughout the North and Midlands, with 40 years working in the community.
A recent posting on the ADS website highlights what I set out to do nearly 30 years ago and it reads as follows ;
“Last month saw a BBC TV crew brave the Oldham drizzle to visit our One Recovery Addiction to Prescription Drug Service. ADS have been providing addiction to prescription drug services for over 10 years; the service has been duly recognised as being a vital part of local provision and it’s important work acknowledged by policy makers and Westminster politicians.” (Accessed on the 12th of August, 2015)
The TV crew were filming for an upcoming show following doctors assigned to treat the whole needs of families. In one such family, an individual was recognised to be suffering from addiction to prescription drugs. As the local service provider, One Recovery Oldham was seen as the step for the individual to seek the help and support they needed. Luckily for them, One Recovery Oldham is only one the of substance misuse services across the country that has a dedicated service designed to treat this often involuntary addiction.
Our specialist benzodiazepine withdrawal worker saw the individual in their doctor’s surgery in Oldham to offer the targeted help and support they needed to overcome their involuntary addiction to prescription drugs.
The TV crew were able to film the positive changes we achieve every day across our services, and it was a great opportunity to showcase the essential work our addiction to prescription drug service does, and to represent One Recovery Oldham and Addiction Dependency Solutions (ADS).
The Programme will air later this year.
So by “being a pain in the backside” my campaigning has brought a much-needed clinical service to the people of Oldham ( and other areas ) and hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding; bringing hope and recovery to so many prescribed drug addicts and their families.
Something that I could only have dreamed of 30 years ago, when I set out on this mission of discovery to help my fellow human beings and to give my life purposeful meaning again, after having 10 years of personal and family life—when I was aged 32 to 42—completely wiped from my memory bank.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Oh gosh if only we had this sort of help in Australia! Not available, on help for illegal drug abuse and alcohol dependence…….. not for someone who was told the prescription drugs are safe, I dont feel guilt for using them, I feel damn angry…. the lies………

  2. In response to Barry’s 2014 MIA article about benzos I posted approximately the following:

    A corner of a brown envelope with the words “KIND REGARDS” FROM: BARRY HASLAM – is on the bulletin board above my computer. It’s about ten years old.

    I was trying to withdraw from benzodiazepines and antipsychotics and antidepressants – but mainly benzodiazepines. There was no help anywhere. Seven doctors including psychiatrists and MD psychotherapists had refused to see me. I had been drugged to insanity – IATROGENIC INSANITY.

    The last words from the psychiatric facility where I had been forcibly held for two-and-a-half months: dementia, institutionalization, pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life, maintenance electroconvulsive therapy for the rest of my life.

    None of that came to be. I had to taper myself off drugs by myself. I don’t know how I got in touch with Barry. I don’t remember what he sent me, but every time I look at that little bit of envelope and the message, I get tearful.

    I share my story hoping that people will listen. Psychiatrists have not learned much. It all started with an ‘innocent’ benzo taken for insomnia related to caregiver burnout and bereavement. When I stopped the benzo a few months later, not one doctor recognized benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

    I’m in Canada.

    Thank you Barry.

  3. Kudos on your endeavor, Barry. And like the commenters from Australia and Canada, I agree we need psychiatric drug withdrawal assistance centers in the US, too. And there is nothing – I actually spent a couple days calling all the local “mental health centers” in my area to see if I could find anyone who would help, or even just recommend a psychiatrist, to help wean a “small, uninsured child suffering from tardive dyskinesia off an antipsychotic.” I could not find any help with this (actually theoretical) problem, except an expensive hospitalization. Truly, the whole world needs places that will help wean people off drugs that even the United Nations now concedes are “torture” drugs.

    • That and also stop putting people on these poison’s to begin with. Nobody should be subjected to that, no one should suffer 10yrs of memory loss or even 1 day or 1h. No one should have to go through withdrawal. It’s so sick and revolting that we have to clean up the pieces left after the systemic crime perpetrated by psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies.

  4. Someone else is right. We have actually no help at all in the United States to withdraw from these toxic, addictive “benzos” Actually, this is true for all the toxic addictive psychiatric drugs. Now, it is common in the United States for many “mental health clinics” to refuse to prescribe them at all even after they have gotten you addicted; except in rare instances where in their illicit determination they think you need them. As for me. they started me on Klonopin in the mid to late 1990s for the what the psychiatrist said was for anxiety and ocd. Now, Ocd was something that never come up before taking the psychiatric drugs in the first place. Then, psychiatrist after psychiatrist just kept prescribing klonopin without review of need. In October of 2002, The psychiatrist I saw at another clinic after my sister’s death switched my absolutely overnight from klonopin to valium. My usual dosage of klonopin was .5 mg in the morning and then .5 mg at bedtime. I stayed on that without change or review even after obtaining a new psychiatrist. The first psychiatrist had abruptly quit and went to work for the county. Then, abruptly after a hospital stay in the spring of 2013; I was taken off all my psychiatric drugs except the lithium. This includes the valium. I have since learned that an abrupt withdrawal from a benzo drug can cause death! My psychiatrist said that that was the very right thing for the hospital doctors to do. According to the hospital doctors and my psychiatrist; I had what they call “sleep apnea.” I now know that the excessive, intense sleeping I underwent in the spring of 2013 was due to an excessive amount of psychiatric drugs that had been entered into my delicate system since 1991/1992; although, I did a med break for about two or maybe three years. But, right before my admittance to the regular hospital; I was in a local “mental hospital” and my only contact with any kind of therapist or psychiatrist was to up me from six dangerous, toxic, highly addictive psychiatric drugs at high dosage levels to seven of these dangerous drugs. The psychiatrist added another anti-psychotic to the one I was already ingesting. I don’t know what happen to the hospital psychiatrist. I do know my main hospital doctor left the hospital system and went to hide in another hospital on the other side of town. The psychiatrist who applauded the hospital doctor’s decision to put my life in danger left the state and went to hide on the west coast. They stopped having a psychiatrist at the mental health clinic where I went; thus to get the drugs; you had to elsewhere. This all happened within less than six months after my release from the hospital. One other doctor involved in this mess went to a “concierge” service that charges patients $1000.00 a year for what you can get for nothing. I have moved from that town. I have no desire to seek any legal recourse. I don’t know how I could; as my proof seems somewhat vague in legal mumbo-jumbo. All I know is that I was like many who post on this site seriously wronged and my life put in danger. The combination of the “pap” machine and the benzo drug withdrawal caused me serious sleep deprivation which is as damaging to your health as to any of the diseases they thought they were preventing. Right? No matter what, you will die anyway. It is a fact of life. This whole awful dangerous mess only started because of a crazy world, crazy people like vocational rehabilitation, and sadly parents; who just would not let me be who I was meant to be; a gentle, sensitive; poetic, artistic, creative soul and spirit. I am now through the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ having my true life restored to me. Right now, I am listening to the Simon and Garfunkel concert from Central Park in the ancient year of 1980 and a few lines come back to haunt me; “Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way.” After all this, my gorgeous hair has a “little silver” in it; but God has been looking out for me. So many of us all over the world have been so unnecessarily wronged; seriously damaged in body and mind all because of a world that would not allow us to be our true selves or to feel our true feelings; as if having feelings and thoughts and being who and what God made is wrong and a danger to sick society. I think of the question; the psychiatrist asked me in his despair; “Are you having racing thoughts?” What is a racing thought, I wonder? I think it must be a creative thought. Creativity is a gift from God. Thank you God for my “racing thoughts!” Thank you all for “listening.”

  5. One more thing I should add if you want to experience a true healing from these awful, toxic, addictive drugs; take a walk in the wilderness; in nature. As a friend of mine asked me one afternoon; “Where is your wilderness?” Where your wilderness is where you will find your true healing from these toxic, addictive, dangerous, possibility fatal drugs and that includes the benzos; but all the psychiatric “junk” drugs. Go find your wilderness and you will find your true self again. Thank you.

  6. One more thing I need to add in my “description of me” and maybe this is the one word that may have gotten me into the most trouble; imaginative. One of my co-workers from my first job out of college told me that one of the things; he admired most about me was my “imagination.” Obviously, a major factor in my “career with mental illness criminal conspiracy” and yet the one thing that may have saved my life; in addition to God, of course. Thank you.

  7. Its a wonder your still alive Barry…. Benzodiazepines are very dangerous drugs and highly lethal.

    Derived from Barbiturates, to make them safer, and counter act the the potential for death by respiratory failure caused by barbiturates two pronged tolerance. One to the respiratory effects of the drug, and the other to the sedative euphoric effects of the drug. So that at some point the dose that is required to get high is the does that kills you by respiratory failure.

    Initially touted as safe and free of over dose risks, and less likely to cause addiction, they have proved more addictive than Heroin, with a much greater risk for over dose. Primarily responsible for the fact that prescription medications kill more people than street drugs.

    Those that use these drugs, especially Xanax, are at risk for seizures, and with Xanax, inter dose dependency means a danger of going into withdrawal if you miss just one dose. Not many drugs can say that.

    I remember years ago, when people abused T’s, and Blues, (Doridan and Codeine) they were at risk for seizures, any time long days after completing withdrawal. The same is true of these meds.

    Part of the risk factor with these drugs, is there ability to blur your awareness of how intoxicated you are. Like many tranquilizers they, aren’t psychoactive in the way, intoxicating agents are like alcohol, or Cannabis. So you don’t get that kind of awareness that your very high. That’s another problem with them.

    You don’t know just how debilitated you are, how out of it. And of course the disinhibiting effects of the drug come into full play, maybe that’s why so many people OD on them by taking other drugs alongside them.

    Ask just about any psychiatrist, and they will tell you they are safe…. They prescribe them like candy…

    and that’s a problem.