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.