There is a headline in The Times newspaper today which makes grim reading.
It says: ‘Scandal of 1mill caught in tranquilliser trap’.
The article goes on to say that GPs were warned about dependency on benzodiazepines 25 years ago but failed to do anything about it; leaving a million people in the UK now addicted to their medication.
Is this news? I think not.
We all know someone who has been taking tranquillisers to help them sleep, to take away the fear of doctors or dentists, to bring calm to the chaos of their lives. We all know someone who wouldn’t, couldn’t and shouldn’t come off their drugs as it would make their life unbearable.
For many of us, that person who is caught in the tranquilliser trap may actually be ourselves.
I was prescribed Xanax as part of my reduction programme off fentanyl lozenges. By the time I was taking those little white pills, I had a healthy respect for the carnage created by addiction to prescription medication and came off them fast. They scared me – and thank god they did.
Yet headlines like these expose the harsh truths that lie beneath the veneer of respectability covering the heart of middle England.
After all, tranquillisers are more commonly known as Mother’s Little Helpers, and as the piece suggests, they were seemingly prescribed without thought to the long term effects of dependency.
I remember my mum giving me a quarter of one of her tranquillisers many years ago before my school exams. It was her way of loving me, calming me down and steadying my nerves.
After all, benzos were part of the ‘normal’ family medicine chest in those days. Only now, as a society, we are reaping the harsh harvest sowed by such quick-fix anxiety relief.
That statistic is a million people, a million lives destroyed by careless or thoughtless or unsupported prescribing. A million lives wasted (literally) by over-prescription of strong drugs.
Yes it is a scandal, yes those who prescribed such medications against NHS advice should be brought to account – but at the heart of this are lives lived in the prison of addiction.
Who is going to help them?