Outside Support

Official Support

    We have had a lot of support from other sufferers, as well as those who have been through the mill and are now helping others to recover. You will soon find out that official support from the NHS is all but non-existent. Even when a GP advises someone to stop taking the drugs, he or she is unlikely to know much about how to do it in the detail needed to do so safely and successfully. In fact although official guidelines have existed since 1988, and have been largely ignored, it was not, as I said earlier, until November 2013 that the BNF gave some details on safe withdrawal from the drugs. The information though welcome is insufficient in itself, and will always need augmenting from other informed sources. 

    People are referred to the local drug and alcohol teams, via the area clinical commissioning groups. Unfortunately as I said in the introduction, unless they have people experienced in the particular psychology of benzodiazepine addiction, the help they offer is inappropriate for involuntary addicts. For the most part drug addicts and alcoholics have to be persuaded to give up, possibly more than once. Techniques used by these teams include medication, and behavioural therapy, neither of which seems appropriate for benzodiazepine sufferers whose main desire is to be free of the drug.

Informal Support

    That leaves four main sources of help - friends and family, voluntary support organisations, social network groups and books. 

Friends and Family. Withdrawal and recovery are very demanding on the sufferer, many of whom cannot believe they will ever repair. They need continual reassurance and lots of talk therapy, all of which is also very demanding on the carers.  It is often difficult for the carer to deal with the mood changes which withdrawal brings, and to understand what is going on. 

Voluntary Groups. The voluntary organisations are few and far between, available on the phone and in person if in the sufferer’s area, and have a great deal of expertise. The chances are that the people you talk to have themselves been sufferers, and are very empathetic. They include:

  • Bristol Tranquilliser Project – www.btpinfo.org.uk
  • Battle Against Tranquillisers (BAT) – www.bataid.org/
  • Oldham Tranx - www.benzo.org.uk/otbh.htm
  • Council for Information on Tranquillisers, Antidepressants and Painkillers (CITAp) - www.citap.org.uk/
  • Recovery Road – www.recovery-road.org
  • Rest Project - https://www.facebook.com/REST.Project 
  • MIND in Camden - http://www.mindincamden.org.uk/services/minor-tranx 

Support Groups. The lack of official support for benzodiazepine withdrawal has led to many self-help groups being formed. Thank goodness for the internet we say.

    One of the earliest was BenzoBuddies (www.benzobuddies.org) based in the USA, and having more than 15,000 members. It operates as a forum, and contains so much anecdotal information that it has become the first port of call for many sufferers. The many successes as well as the horrible problems are extensively covered. 

    In both the US and UK there are support groups, mostly closed (private) on Facebook, providing day-to-day support, encouragement, and information. There are also support sites, such as http://www.beatingbenzos.com which is one person's account of recovery with a wealth of detailed information including other people's stories.

    There is one downside however. Continuous contact with fellow sufferers can be overwhelming, so be prepared to take a break sometimes.

Books.  Benzo.org has a list of books been written about benzodiazepine withdrawal, but the three have been invaluable to me – “The Ashton Manual” by Professor Heather Ashton, “Renewal and Recovery” by Bliss Johns and  “Coming off Tranquillisers, Sleeping Pills and Anti-Depressants” by Shirley Trickett. Details are given below.