Call to Action: Massachusetts Benzodiazepine Bill is Going to Committee

Alison Page
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The Massachusetts Bill H4062: Informed consent for benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics was scheduled on March 28 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.

If the bill “goes to study,” it is essentially dead in the water until the next legislative session, and in that case, the bill often dies. It is important that we rally in support of this bill to ensure that it passes this session.

The bill will ensure that patients receive informed consent about the potential dangers of benzodiazepines and Z Drugs (sleeping aids). If the patient is already taking benzodiazpienes or Z Drugs, they will decide whether or not to come off, and if they do choose to come off, a safe and slow taper will be implemented. The bill specifies that the patient decides whether or not they would like to come off  benzodiazepines and/or Z Drugs, not the doctor. 

What Can You Do To Help?

1.) Attend the Public Hearing

On Monday, April 4th, 2016 at 1:00pm in Hearing Room A-1 at the Massachusetts State House, the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse will hold a Public Hearing on the bill. Anyone can speak, but Massachusetts residents are especially encouraged to participate.  If you do want to speak, here are the guidelines:

  • The time limit for testimony is 3 minutes.
  • Bring 20 written copies of your testimony. 17 for the members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance and 1 for the clerk. Leaves you a few extra.
  • Sign-up to testify usually begins about an hour before the hearing. They take people in the order that they arrive and sign-up. So, if anything, try to be early.
  • If you’re going as a group, one person can sign everyone up. That person will need everyone’s name and the bill you are testifying for. It’s H4062: An Act relative to benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics.
  • Legislators sit in a single file, but typically not in a prearranged order. They should have name cards in front of them.
  • You’ll be testifying from a table in front of the committee. You’ll have a microphone.
  • The best testimony is a) clearly intelligible to a smart legislator who – due to the broad nature of the job – may not have deep knowledge on the topic and b) not morally instructive, which is to say that it’s far better to demonstrate impact than make sweeping statements about moral obligation, etc.

 

2.) Send an E-mail in Support of the Bill by Monday April, 11

It is most important that the committee hears from Massachusetts residents, but anyone from around the world is welcome to write in support of Bill H4062. Please include the following information in your e-mail:

  1. Full Name
  2. Town and State (if you live within the U.S.)
  3. Country (if you live outside of the U.S.)
  4. Use “Bill H4062” as the subject line
  5. If you are writing from outside of Massachusetts, include how this bill will affect your state/country. For example, if this bill passes in Massachusetts, you are hoping a similar bill will pass in your own state/country.

 

Here is draft which you can copy and paste, or personalize as you see fit.

Email to: [email protected]

Subject: Bill H4062

Dear Chairs and Members of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse,

As a resident of Massachusetts, I am asking you to support Bill H4062 sponsored by Representative Paul McMurtry. Benzodiazepines and Z Drugs are very dangerous drugs for certain individuals. Benzodiazepines and Z drugs can cause physical dependence or addiction, and in a sizable minority, can cause a severe central nervous system injury which can take years to recover from. The injury can be so severe that people become disabled. (see article below)

The opiate crisis also intersects with benzodiazepines. Research has shown that when benzodiazepines are mixed with opiates, they potentiate each other and are more likely to lead to an overdose resulting in death. (see article below)

Informed consent will ensure that patients know these risks before taking benzodiazepines and/or Z Drugs. Patients deserve to understand that this class of medication can cause physical dependence or addiction, can sometimes cause a severe and disabling central nervous system injury, and should not be mixed with opiates or alcohol.

When Withdrawal is the Hardest Part

Your View: A perfect storm of addiction — Opiates and ‘benzos’ still flood

Sincerely,

Full Name (followed by mailing address)

Previous articleIn Search of an Evidence-based Role for Psychiatry
Next article“Psychiatric Drugs a Proven Menace”
Alison Page
Alison Page is a benzodiazepine survivor. She took prescribed benzodiazepines off and on for 16 months and was rapidly tapered off. She ended up with a severe central nervous system injury which has taken years to recover from. As a result of her experience, Alison is now an activist on behalf of psychiatric survivors and works to raise awareness about the dangers of psychiatric drugs and treatment methods. She enjoys being out in nature, watercolor painting, and meditation.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Alison

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of the progress on this bill.

    I am planning to attend this hearing and possibly testifying. I wasn’t aware that someone was using the Op Ed piece from the New Bedford Standard Times that I wrote a year ago. It is good to know that some people found it useful.

    If I testify I want to make sure that my testimony is respectful of the main aims of the legislation. So I will contact others to discuss the content of various people’s testimony prior to the hearing. If you have thoughts on this please contact me by email.

    Richard

    • Two problems with your statement:

      1. Benzodiazepines aren’t recommended for use for more than 2-4 weeks, including taper.
      2. Benzodiazepines taken long term actually CAUSE panic and anxiety. Ask anyone who’s become physiologically dependent on them after long-term use which was worse – the tolerance withdrawal and drug withdrawal panic, or the issue they were prescribed them for. I’m willing to bet all I have (since I’m a victim of benzos myself and know the answer) that every.single.one. of them would trade the crippling disability that inappropriate (more then 2-4 weeks, including taper) prescribed benzo use caused and, instead, would choose to go back in time before ever taking benzos and find an alternate way (of which there are many) to address the underlying issue (even if it was panic) for which they were initially prescribed the drugs.

      Panic won’t kill you- but benzodiazepines can (and many times do- I’ve watched a lot of support group members trying to withdraw take their lives over the years). For me, the reason I was prescribed them was stress at work. Well, now, I’m unemployed because of crippling (and near-deadly: I, too, almost took my own life due to the severity of it) withdrawal that’s persisted for over half a decade. So, in one sense, they “worked” by creating so much disability I could no longer work (that was sarcasm). There is better than this. And if you’re going to argue that some people might be willing to take the risk – well, then, at the very least, they deserve informed consent to know what they’re getting into ahead of time, and their condition should be so severe their doctor has to find a way to plead their case as unique and unusual (risk versus benefit). Mass, irresponsible, and medically negligent, without informed consent prescribing shouldn’t be the norm – of which is the case currently.

      Benzos are not a long-term panacea and should never be prescribed as such – they don’t cure anything. They are a temporary band-aid at best, and anything longer is actually counterproductive.

  2. Dear Allison,

    I just learned of the hearing this coming Monday. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your activism on behave of so many who have suffered from these drugs. I lost my wonderful son nearly two years ago after he suffered through tapering and a protracted recovery. He was a wonderful man who worked diligently at finding his way through but eventually lost hope. He was on benzos approx 8 years and his life was destroyed by them.
    I will be at the State House on Monday for the hearings and will prepare a statement to deliver if needed or appropriate.

    I hope to meet you then and I hope your recovery is continuing and your life blossoming.

    In Gratitude, Lea