When Meds Taken “As Prescribed” Still Cause Harm


I was a good patient, and I paid the ultimate price.’

Geraldine Burns, patient advocate

When someone develops a physical dependence on a medication, others might assume that they were taking too much or abusing the drug. However, there is growing recognition in the medical community that some medications can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, even when taken exactly as directed by a doctor.

. . . For the past several years, a group of advocates has been sounding the alarm about [this] phenomenon [in connection] with benzodiazepines, or ‘benzos’ — a class of medications commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, including Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. The use of benzos increased tremendously in the beginning of the 2000s; according to the US Food and Drug Administration, the total quantity of benzodiazepine prescriptions adults filled more than tripled from 1996 to 2013. The pandemic and associated stresses appears to have spurred an increase in benzo use among women in particular.

. . . The upcoming documentary film ‘As Prescribed,’ created by benzo survivor and filmmaker Holly Hardman, shares the stories of people in all stages of benzo withdrawal — some in the middle of the tapering process, some just beginning their journey, and others who have recovered. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this work in progress. Through emotional interviews, Hardman shows the massive impact benzos have had on these individuals’ physical, social, and financial health.”

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