Further patient concerns re PHE review sent to Matt Hancock

Mick Behan is a veteran campaigner on benzodiazepines and has an extensive knowledge of the subject.  He previously wrote to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, with concerns about the PHE review on prescribed drug dependence.


Today, he has sent further concerns to Matt Hancock, as follows.

Dear Mr Hancock,

Since I sent you my complaint by email on 21 September 2018 about the PHE review on addiction to medicine, additional information has been posted on the PHE website:


I would therefore like to add the following points to my complaint.

  1. Clinical Trial Evidence

The National Guideline Centre (NGC) has been appointed to conduct a literature review for PHE


The NGC has now issued a call for evidence which explicitly invites pharmaceutical companies to submit unpublished trials to the NGC with prearranged confidentiality offered by the NGC.

The NGC is considering new drugs in this exercise. This is further evidence that the PHE ‘review ‘ of addiction to medicines is in reality a launch platform for anti-addiction drugs.

‘Anti-addiction’ drugs are manufactured by Braeburn, Martindale and most prominently by Indivior who are promoting SUBLOCADE, a depot injection targeting opiate painkiller addicts.

If Sublocade has to rely upon unpublished confidential trials this is a red flashing warning light of another drug disaster in the making.

‘Anti-addiction drugs’ is an oxymoron in itself. No drug can cure the addiction or damage created by a previous drug.

Replacement and substitute drugs have always proved more toxic and addictive than the previous drugs. Each new drug, benzodiazepines, z drugs, SSRIs, has been introduced as safe and non-addictive by their manufacturers.

  1. (See point 3b in the previous email). The exclusion of patient and other dissenting opinions is reinforced by the NGC with no explanation; ‘the views, experiences and opinions of individual professionals, researchers, commentators or patients will not be able to be included’.
  2. Conflicts of Interest (Point 4 in previous email)

PHE has also now published the names of the review’s ‘Project Team’.

These names were anonymised in previous minutes as ‘members of the Project Team’ but are now announced as Pharma heavyweights with significant conflicts of interest – Mike Kelleher, John Marsden and Gary Stillwell.


Also, the Programme Manager is announced as Steve Taylor who is an aggressive campaigner against drug withdrawal services.

There is no mention of expertise in drug-free withdrawal goals within the Project Team. This is the central point of my complaint; the outcome of the review is predetermined by its chairperson, by the members’ links to pharmaceutical companies, by the exclusion of patients and by the ToR.

There are to be no withdrawal services.

The review, which was intended by the Minister to be an investigation of how to reduce addiction to medicine, has been turned by Rosanna O’Connor into a project to prescribe even more drugs.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,


Michael Behan (Former researcher for the office of Jim Dobbin MP and co-founder APPGITA)



Fiona French – Expert patient by experience

John Perrott – Former researcher, APPGITA

Andy D’Alessio – Expert patient by experience

Alyne Duthie – Expert patient by experience

Barry Haslam – Ex-Chair Oldham Tranx

Graham Smith – Expert patient by experience

Pamela Wilson – Expert patient by experience

Jen Hider – Expert patient by experience

Janet Crouch – Expert patient by experience


Posted in Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome | Leave a comment

Blocked on Twitter by Prof Clare Gerada and Emily McKee, dietician.

My health and my life have been destroyed by iatrogenic harm from benzodiazepines and antidepressants.  I therefore spend my time campaigning to raises awareness of the extremely damaging effects of these drugs in order to prevent harm to others.  I believe this is an extremely valuable thing to do particularly as I am in bed most of the time, having been left physically disabled and cognitively impaired.   After all the medical profession seemed largely unaware of the immense problems associated with antidepressant and benzodiazepine withdrawal or the widespread nature of these problems.  As patient campaigners,  we have liaised with the British Medical Association, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prescribed Drug Dependence, we have petitioned the Scottish Parliament and contributed to many other aspects of a very valuable campaign.   Public Health England is currently carrying out a year long review of prescribed drug dependence and will report in 2019.


I recently responded to a tweet by The Bipolar Doc as can be seen from this thread. I very much appreciated the kind response.  I always appreciate kindness and understanding from a medical doctor even if it is only on Twitter and would hope I always express my gratitude.

I responded to Bipolar Doc in good faith.  I have been very distressed in recent years by the lack of honesty, empathy and compassion from a series of doctors I have consulted locally about the disastrous consequences to my health from prescribed drug withdrawal which have left me so very disabled.

The next day I was astonished to find that Prof Clare Gerada had sent me the following tweet and that she had blocked me on Twitter.  I had not directed my comments to Prof Gerada and any suggestion that she is responsible for the behaviour of  my doctors in Scotland is quite ludicrous.   She said:

“Your tweets are affecting my mental health. They distress me. You appear to blame me for things outside my control. I am sorry but I am going to block you.”

I have criticised Prof Gerada for the fact she downplayed benzodiazepine withdrawal on national radio and proceeded to do the same in a recent Royal Society of Medicine podcast with regard to SSRI withdrawal.   She has a great deal of influence and the prescribed harmed community has struggled hard to get the issues around withdrawal taken seriously.   She could have used her position to assist us instead of making things more difficult for us.  Prof Gerada has shown no empathy or understanding towards those of us who campaign to prevent further harm to patients and this of course replicates the behaviour of most of the doctors I have consulted locally.  I find it baffling.

I was then made aware that Emily McKee, dietician, had joined the thread and had posted the following comment.

“Block and delete lovely, When people are so set in their views, you have no chance of changing them, its not worth your emotional labour.   Save that for people whose minds are open at least a little, enough to listen and consider.” 

Emily, a healthcare professional, knows nothing about me.  She has never communicated with me.  She knows nothing about the campaigning work I have undertaken.  Yet she has decided I am “set in my views” and I am not worthy of “emotional labour”.   Her mind is so closed that she proceeded to block me so I cannot even respond. I doubt she even realised what she was doing or how closed her mind appears to be.  She has also blocked a fellow campaigner, Andy d’Allesio, himself subjected to appalling treatment by psychiatry.

Is this really acceptable behaviour for a healthcare professional on social media?  

Emily has made snap judgements about people she knows nothing about and has made derogatory comments to boot.

Or perhaps she has been following our campaign for a long time.  Perhaps she could let me know. I would be interested in her views even though she is clearly not interested in mine. I hope she does not judge her patients in the way she has judged me.

I would appreciate an apology from both Prof Gerada and Emily McKee.  They know how to unblock me and I am ready to communicate with them.  Or they can respond on my blog.

I cannot for the life of me imagine blocking someone on Twitter when I know nothing about them and have never communicated with them unless I suspected some sinister purpose.  Closed minds indeed.  The irony of it all.


I have received two responses from Emily McKee.

“As people who have also experienced trauma, I would have thought that should be quite understandable to you and Fiona.  I suggested that Clare do the same for her mental health with the same sentiment.  I don’t tell you how to deal with your trauma. I’d appreciate the same courtesy”

“You don’t seem to realise that I was not responding as a professional but as a patient.  I choose to block some topics from my timeline that remind me of my own trauma within the mental health system as a PATIENT.  I avoid certain triggers for my own wellbeing because of trauma?”

I can understand why people wish to avoid triggers if they have been traumatised and everyone can take measures to protect themselves.  However, this can be done without criticising others who are expressing genuine opinions.  It is possible to mute a thread for example without making negative judgements about the other participants.  I remain disappointed that I and others have been judged without good reason.   I also remain baffled about why my tweets about my doctors in Scotland should be distressing to Prof Gerada.  Perhaps Emily is unaware that Prof Gerada prefers not to engage with campaigners so I am not sure how it is possible to have a dialogue in those circumstances.   But apparently it is we the campaigners who have the closed minds.

Interesting conclusion.

Were the above exchanges contrived, I suspect they were, I do not find any of the above genuine.  I see things much more clearly now that I am not on prescribed medication, the drugs clouds one’s judgement greatly.  Traumatised patients do not generally denigrate other traumatised patients as Emily McKee has done without good reason.

Posted in Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome | 2 Comments

Unfounded accusations and insinuations on Twitter

Campaigning on prescribed drug dependence and iatrogenic harm is not easy.  For the most part people are respectful and polite and I have rarely had to block anyone for being rude and obnoxious.  We all misinterpret things at times but usually apologise for it when the misunderstanding becomes clear.  I hope that I remain polite whilst also challenging the views of others.  I am not normally prone to paranoia but I have become very suspicious recently of various false accusations and insinuations and all from medical doctors. I find it very interesting that it should be medical doctors.

First, a doctor called “Frontline Shrink” said he had been bullied by many people after a few tweets were exchanged with one or two campaigners.  I asked him to clarify how many people he had been bullied by but he did not respond. I had simply asked him to clarify a tweet as it did not make sense to me nor did it make sense to others in the thread.  I did nothing whatsoever to bully him.  

It  was later suggested on Twitter by “Physician Associate” that I was part of a “band of bullies”.  I had bullied no-one but was taking part in a conversation with other campaigners. He happened to enter the thread and someone responded briefly.  The conversation between campaigners continued and was not directed at Physician Associate.  The generalised comment was withdrawn later in the conversation.

This was followed soon after by insinuations by Dr Samei Huda, psychiatrist that I and other campaigners may support the Far Right and Scientology. Dr Huda has not apologised for this insinuation.  He seemed to think he could bully us into agreeing with his statements about another campaigner, Bob Fiddaman, and when we did not comply he made his appalling comments about myself and Andy d’Alessio.

“And as for Andy Alessio and Fiona French not finding far right radio stations interviewing  Klansmen as not something to worry about – well look at your values”

What he did not know was that due to cognitive impairment I could not follow the thread which I was supposed to be commenting upon.  Even if I had been able to follow it I may have chosen not to comment as I normally take time to mull things over.  I believe it is my right to do so without insinuations being made about my values.   In any case I do not like being bullied into doing something, whatever it may be.  I prefer to make my own decisions.

Today Dr Huda has commented that some people in a thread of which I was a part wanted benzos to be withdrawn when in fact one person suggested it and it certainly was not me.  I do find it rather curious that all this happened before and after the recent press coverage of the resignation of Prof David Baldwin when campaigners were accused of carrying out a sustained campaign of abuse via social media.

I do not think these incidents are innocent or accidental.  Quite the opposite.

Screenshots have been taken of the above comments.


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Resignation of Prof David Baldwin as expert witness to PHE Review

Three days ago, Prof David Baldwin’s resignation as expert witness to Public Health England review on prescribed drug dependence was announced in the national press.



Great play was made about comments in a single blog where Prof Baldwin was described as a “Pharma-Whore” and a comment appended to that blog where he was likened to “Hitler”.  This hardly constitutes a sustained campaign of abuse. No mention was made that either the blogger, Truthman, or the commenter had both been seriously harmed by Seroxat, or that Prof David Baldwin had promoted Seroxat as being safe.   Neither the blogger nor the commenter were contacted by the press to explain why they had used these terms to describe Prof Baldwin.  The blog and comments can be read here.


If any psychiatrist cares to come and spend time in the online prescribed harmed community they would find that the rage and the hatred for psychiatry is immense because the lives of so many ordinary patients have been destroyed simply because patients trusted their doctors.  The betrayal of trust coupled with the frequent denial of drug harm from the medical profession as well as the debilitating disabilities makes for  regular outbursts of justified rage.  I share that sense of rage looking back on my own life which has been utterly destroyed by the failure of psychiatry to recognise adverse drug effects, instead leading me to believe I had a depressive illness from which I would never recover.  At no time in 40 years was it ever suggested to me that I could possibly function without medication or that in fact the medication was making me very unwell. I believe that the grief for a life lost would be overwhelming but I am protected by the fact that my emotions are dulled as is my brain and so thoughts and emotions are very subdued most of the time.  Outbursts of rage however do happen, usually when I am faced with a doctor.

The Times reported that “David Baldwin claimed that a fellow adviser helped to fan the flames of online abuse in a row over the effects of the drugs.”  I would like to know what evidence exists to support this claim.  The blogger, Truthman, has been blogging for years about Seroxat and GSK, as can be seen from his blog above.

Prof Baldwin was portrayed as a victim, but he is not the victim, the real victims are the countless patients who have either lost their lives or been seriously harmed by SSRI antidepressants.  As Prof Baldwin has extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry, his role as expert witness to PHE review was inappropriate.   Perhaps any distress caused to him will diminish in a couple of weeks, just as the withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants were said to be short-lived and self-limiting.   Prof Baldwin’s statement about antidepressant withdrawal is said to be in keeping with NICE guidelines, yet the guidelines on depression have since been classed as unfit for purpose.  If they are indeed unfit for purpose, surely it would not have been difficult to retract and apologise for the letter in the Times, given that the information presented was likely to be inaccurate.  The tapering guidance in the NICE guidelines is based on short term clinical trials and therefore do not apply to most patients in the real world where antidepressants are prescribed for many years and even decades.

The following day a second article was published in The Times newspaper.


This again was written in support of antidepressants as an effective means of treating depression.  However, no question was asked as to why there are 9 million patients on the drugs in the UK when only 2 million are estimated to be suffering from depression and only a fraction of those are said to be receiving treatment.   The arguments about the effectiveness of antidepressants for depression therefore only apply to a small percentage of patients taking the drugs.  The issues are the risks of dependence, the immense difficulties of withdrawal, the fact that many patients cannot get off the drugs and that many are also being left irreversibly and seriously damaged.  There was no mention of this in the article.  Once again it downplays the horrendous symptoms patients are experiencing both whilst taking the drugs and when trying to come off them.   It does not address the issue of whether the harms in fact outweigh the benefits.

“There are side-effects to taking them, and side-effects to coming off them. They do not work for everyone but they are a gain to human wellbeing. Scientists should study them, not attack their advocates.”

The news about Prof Baldwin’s resignation was also reported in the BMJ.  I have written a rapid response, yet to be published.


Rapid Response

As a member of the prescribed harmed community and an active campaigner on prescribed drug dependence, I am fully aware of the exchanges taking place on social media and indeed have played an active part in those exchanges over a long period of time. Patient campaigners are well-informed, articulate and respectful for the most part but rarely is there a genuine dialogue with representatives of the Royal College of Psychiatry. Questions are for the most part ignored and even when engagement does take place it is rarely satisfactory. Prof David Baldwin has not himself been involved in any of the extensive Twitter discussions as far as I am aware but they have mostly involved attempts at engagement with Prof Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College. It is therefore extremely disappointing that a few unpleasant comments have been highlighted in the press, taken from a blog and a comment to that blog. The blogger in question has been campaigning for many years particularly on Seroxat and the pharmaceutical industry, and despite his extensive knowledge of these matters he was not himself approached by the journalists in question.

Patients in the prescribed harmed community welcome the resignation of Prof David Baldwin as expert witness because of his many declared conflicts of interest. Patients were dismayed by his assertion that antidepressant withdrawal was short-lived for the vast majority of patients, they were further dismayed that there was no clear evidence to support this assertion and no apology or retraction of the letter in The Times. Patients remain extremely concerned about the current Public Health England Review and are particularly dismayed that they have not been invited to give evidence directly. We all view this as a glaring omission and as further dismissal and rejection of the hugely important lived experiences of those patients harmed by drugs of dependence. We are of course free to compile and collate information into a format that is acceptable to Public Health England, otherwise our views will be filtered by professionals into report format. Patients who have been harmed by drugs of dependence will continue to take a keen interest in this review, but will continue to campaign for a public inquiry as this is needed to fully understand why such a prescribing disaster was allowed to happen in the first place.

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Nick Hodgson is not the son-in-law of Simon Wessely

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Patient concerns re PHE Review emailed to Matt Hancock today

Michael Behan has campaigned for many years for justice for the victims of prescribed benzodiazepines and has an in-depth knowledge of this subject as it relates to the UK.  He was part of the class action in the 1990s.  Most campaigners now prefer the term “dependence” to describe the physical dependence on prescribed drugs rather than “addiction” as the two differ in significant ways.



Today Michael Behan has written to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, outlining his concerns about the current PHE review of prescribed drug dependence and in particular the role of Rosanna O’Connor as Chair of that Review.  A number of patients by experience share his concerns and have agreed to support this email.  We fear that the current review will not address the many issues that need to be addressed and we believe a public inquiry is necessary.


Dear Mr Hancock,

I am writing to complain about the appointment of Rosanna O’Connor as chair of the PHE prescribed medicine review and the conduct of that review.

  1. Background – Drug addiction

The basic issue in the consideration of addiction to medicine (ATM) is to decide who is responsible for the addiction; is it the doctors or the patients?

Is the problem involuntary, iatrogenic addiction caused by doctors misprescribing , or is it a drug misuse problem?

Following on from these two opposing explanations are two opposing treatment responses.

The first is that discovered by benzodiazepine addicted patients in the 1970s and codified by Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University; slow, tapered withdrawal over a 6 – 12 month period. Gradual withdrawal with drug free goals is safe, cost effective and successful. It has been used worldwide by patients for decades and has been adapted for use in A/D withdrawal.

The second response is the drug misuse/harm reduction model in which patients are held responsible for their addiction.

In this approach, addiction is regarded as a ‘chronic relapsing condition’, in other words it is incurable and abstinence will be unsuccessful.

Drug misuse treatment therefore involves management, not withdrawal.

In the case of benzos, z drugs and A/Ds it means, in practice, that GPs continue to prescribe and DoH provides no withdrawal services.

In the case of illegal drugs, particularly heroin, harm reduction has meant drug substitution. Methadone is substituted for heroin and that is RoC’s background as Director of Deliverance for the National Treatment Agency, the methadone delivery service.

APPGITA, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction chaired by the late Jim Dobbin MP, raised the issue of addiction to medicine in Parliament from 2009.

RoC put herself forward as a hard line opponent of the APPGITA campaign for withdrawal services and as an advocate for the drug misuse point of view.

RoC’s techniques included:

  1. a) Pretending ATM services existed when they did not
  2. b) Pretending there was negligible demand for ATM services
  3. c) Describing ATM as a drug misuse issue, thereby stigmatising involuntary addicts as misusers

RoC used her position and power as a Director of the NTA to support her campaign.

RoC is entitled to an opinion but hers is a controversial and contentious opinion.

  1. RoC is prejudiced

In October 2016 RoC was quoted as follows in the Daily Mail:

“In response to the BMA’s calls, Rosanna O’Connor, director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England, said: “Addiction to prescribed and over the counter medicines is obviously a concern and it is essential that people only take these medicines in accordance with medical advice.

“If people feel that they may be dependent on either prescribed or over the counter medicines they should seek help, speaking to a GP is a good first step.

“Public Health England supports local authorities to develop tailored responses to existing and emerging drug misuse issues in their area and, in conjunction with the NHS, to address specific concerns about addiction to prescribed and over the counter medicines.

“It remains important that all health professionals make every contact count with patients and are alert to possible signs of misuse and dependence, including to prescribed drugs.”


RoC advises it is ‘essential that people only take these medicines in accordance with medical advice’.

Patient groups have contended for 30 years that it is by following medical advice that patients become addicted.

Irrespective of which side of the dispute you agree with (ITA or drug misuse) an impartial review should have an impartial chairperson who considers both points of view.

The conduct of the review has been unfair and biased.

  1. Terms of Reference

The ToR were released gradually, the first version was ambiguously written and it was not possible to know what the review would involve. The ToR were clarified for the public when the minutes of the APPGPDD meeting of 6 June were released on 21 June 2018 and the minutes of the PHE Expert Reference Group meeting in April were published on the internet on 20 July.

  1. a)   Doctors

The review has instructed itself to examine patient characteristics and behaviour only in order to explain ATM. The review will not scrutinise doctors’ behaviour or prescribing. The presumption of the review is that responsibility for ATM lies with the patient, not the doctor. This is a ‘drug misuse’ agenda.

I have included a list in the appendix of doctor related issues that the review could have explored to understand ATM.

An unbiased review would have researched both possible explanations of ATM, drug misuse and involuntary addiction/dependence.

This is one example of RoC’s prejudice distorting the review.

  1. b)  Patients

A second example of prejudice is the exclusion of patients. Patient testimony is specifically excluded from the review; patient ideas, opinions, analysis and solutions are not accepted.

Yet it was patients, not doctors or pharmaceutical companies, who identified benzodiazepine, z drugs and antidepressants as addictive, (doctors, pharma, the licensing authorities CSM and MCA, and DoH insisted for decades the drugs were not addictive).

Patients identified the addiction as a physical addiction, not a psychological addiction.

Patients discovered the safe and successful gradual taper method of withdrawal, later codified by Professor Heather Ashton.

Recovering patients set up the first withdrawal clinics and support groups to help fellow sufferers achieve drug free goals, (DoH withdrew funding and shut them down).

Despite all this, RoC presupposes academics, doctors and their professional organisations have a monopoly of knowledge on ATM.

At the APPGPDD EGM at the House of Commons on 6 June 2018, RoC received a plea from campaigner Barry Haslam for testimony to be accepted from those harmed by ATM.


RoC and her ‘team’ denigrated patients and their testimonies. Listening to patients is rejected because their ideas do not have sufficient ‘strength’, ‘integrity’, ‘rigor’ or ‘robustness’. Hearings of patients’ ideas would be ‘out of scope’ and ‘not applicable’. PHE postulates a ‘hierarchy of evidence’ and patients do not meet the ‘quality criteria’ of that hierarchy.

In no other subject matter would this attitude towards victims be acceptable.

For example, the Grenfell inquiry and the recent child abuse inquiry would not and could not proceed without victim participants.

Doctors are excluded from scrutiny but invited to give evidence to the review. Patients are to undergo detailed scrutiny but are excluded from giving evidence.

  1. c)   Evidence ban

On 17 September 2018, in response to a PQ by Lord Hunt, Lord O’Shaughnessy disclosed a new restriction on the evidence to be accepted by the review. Evidence has to be less than 10 years old.


The main research work on benzo toxicity, addiction, withdrawal and post withdrawal syndrome was completed in the 1970s, 1980’s and 1990s. The research has been published in the academic literature.



Professor Ashton’s work will also be excluded from the review by the ban.

The DoH and PHE have routinely ignored all of the work and informally excluded it from their previous reviews and drug policy publications on benzos.

That exclusion is now overtly part of the ToR. The evidence ban demonstrates an intention to conceal the damage inflicted by benzodiazepines.

Again, RoC’s prejudice is controlling the review.

  1. Conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest in this context refer to financial links with the pharmaceutical industry. The review contains multiple conflicts of interest.

Pharma opinion leader, Professor David Baldwin, has been appointed to the ERG. Professor Baldwin promotes drug use, not withdrawal. His appointment is the subject of a complaint to the RCPsych by an A/D campaign group.



Two members of the ERG have declared financial connections with the pharmaceutical company Indivior.

Those members have not declared, however, that the pharmaceutical company Indivior is promoting and marketing ‘anti-addiction’ drugs which are claimed to treat ATM.

NatCen has been appointed part of the review. Professor John Strang and NatCen wrote two previous reports on ATM in 2011 and 2017. Both were drug misuse reports, blaming patients as misusers and absolving doctors.

Professor Strang was exposed in the Independent newspaper for multiple undeclared financial connections with drug manufacturers.


Professor Strang is another pharmaceutical opinion leader.

Professor Strang and NatCen cherry-picked the literature to report minimal drug side effects and withdrawal symptoms. On page 21 of the 2017 NatCen report they claim benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms last up to four weeks only.

  1. Conclusion

The drug misuse/patient blaming agenda suits the pharmaceutical companies perfectly.

No responsibility is attached to the manufacturers.

No scrutiny of doctors means no enforcement of guidelines which means continued overprescribing.

No withdrawal services mean no reduction in prescriptions or sales and no escape for addicted patients.

Professor Strang’s two Drug misuse reports were a waste of time and money for everyone else involved. Professor Strang blocked any reform intended by the Health ministers involved, Gillian Merron MP, Anne Milton MP and Anna Soubry MP and by Prime Minister David Cameron MP.

RoC’s review is a continuation of the same approach.

‘Drug misuse’ is the dominant ideology within the DoH, PHE and doctors’ organisations. They have no interest in drug withdrawal treatment or drug free outcomes.

RoC is a drug misuse administrator and advocate who has excluded opposing points of view from the review.

RoC is not an independent chair and her management of the review confirms that.

The likely outcome of the review will be the normalisation and management of ATM rather than prevention or withdrawal treatment.

The Prime Minister on Benzodiazepine Addiction: “First, I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman (Jim Dobbin, MP), who has campaigned strongly on this issue over many years. I join him in paying tribute to Professor Ashton, whom I know has considerable expertise in this area. He is right to say that this is a terrible affliction; these people are not drug addicts but they have become hooked on repeat prescriptions of tranquillisers. The Minister for Public Health is very happy to discuss this issue with him and, as he says, make sure that the relevant guidance can be issued.” – Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP, Prime Minister, October 23, 2013.

 I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Behan  – Former researcher, Office of Jim Dobbin MP



Barry Haslam – Ex-Chair Oldham Tranx

Graham Smith  – Expert patient by experience

John Perrott   – Former researcher, APPGITA

Fiona French – Expert patient by experience

Alyne Duthie –  Expert patient by experience

Pamela Wilson – Expert patient by experience

Andy D’Alessio  – Expert patient by experience

Janet Crouch –  Expert patient by experience

Jen Hider –  Expert patient by experience






  1. Number of patients with lost or incomplete records
  2. Polypharmacy; patients prescribed psychotropic cocktails including benzodiazepines
  1. Prescribing trends from weaker to stronger strength benzodiazepines e.g. diazepam to lorazepam (ratio 1:10)
  1. Number of children prescribed benzodiazepines and z drugs
  2. Number of pregnant women prescribed benzodiazepines and z drugs
  3. Long term prescriptions – A schedule of the duration of benzo/z drug prescriptions by year showing the numbers prescribed from 1 year up to 50 years
  1. Number of patients who were warned they were at risk of addiction
  2. Number of patients who have received withdrawal advice and details of the advice given i.e. protocol suggested including tapering advice, number of withdrawal attempts and the number of successful withdrawals with a drug free outcome
  1. Number of patients prescribed benzos and z drugs deregistered from surgeries
  2. Number of yellow cards completed on benzos
  3. Number of deaths associated with benzos and z drugs
  4. Number of hospital admissions related to benzos and z drugs
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Response to Parliamentary Questions re Prescribed Drug Dependence.

Parliamentary Questions tabled by Lord Philip Hunt, King’s Heath

Lord O’Shaughnessy, the Department of Health and Social Care, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9971):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will establish a public inquiry into the harmful effects of prescribed benzodiazepine drug dependence over the last 50 years. (HL9971)

Tabled on: 04 September 2018

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to secure funding for existing prescribed medicines withdrawal centres. (HL9967)
    Tabled on: 04 September 2018
  2. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to increase the number of prescribed medicines withdrawal centres to cover the whole of England. (HL9968)
    Tabled on: 04 September 2018
  3. To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will ensure that in establishing a 24 hour helpline for people affected by prescribed medicines addiction they will also ensure that adequate services are in place to refer patients to. (HL9969)
    Tabled on: 04 September 2018

Lord O’Shaughnessy:

The Parliamentary under Secretary of State (Steve Brine MP) commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to review the evidence for dependence on, and withdrawal from, prescribed medicines. The review was launched in January 2018 and is due to report in spring 2019 and we await its findings. It is the responsibility of local authorities to commission services, such as the provision of withdrawal centres for addiction to prescribed medicines, to meet assessed local need. The Government currently has no plans to increase the number of these centres.

The Government has no plans to introduce a separate national helpline to support people affected by prescribed drug dependence. Help and advice on prescribed drug dependence is already available from the 111 helpline or NHS Choices. People who feel that they might be dependent on either prescribed or over the counter medicines should seek help from a health professional in the first instance (such as a general practitioner or pharmacist).

PHE’s review includes prescribed benzodiazepine drug dependence but will not consider evidence further back than 10 years ago. There are no plans to establish a public inquiry into prescribed benzodiazepine drug dependence.

Date and time of answer: 17 Sep 2018 at 15:06.

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5 years ago today I attended a musical recital

Today is not a good day, it is a day for looking back, a day filled with regret and sadness.  On 14 September 2013, I attended a musical recital with friends, a quartet, though  I cannot remember much about it.  That is the last day I remember still being able to function after tapering off Nitrazepam between January and April 2013.  Between April and September 2013, my health had been getting worse but nothing prepared me for the catastrophic events that were to follow.  I am not one for exaggeration, indeed I tend to be quite the opposite, so when I say catastrophic, that means it really was quite simply horrific.  I do not know why I have been so badly affected, I am sure my doctors do not have the least idea either, this is clearly beyond their understanding just as so much is beyond their understanding.  What is certain is that my brain no longer functions normally, I cannot walk far, I cannot stand for long, I cannot process written text beyond a few paragraphs, I cannot write by hand for more than a few minutes, my left eye is damaged and my eyesight will never recover,  I have difficulty processing speech, I lack spatial awareness and I still have some depersonalisation and derealisation.   For three years my mind was disassociated from my brain and body so that although I was fully aware of what was happening, I lived in a chemical haze of extreme optimism which bore no resemblance to what was actually happening.   I then experienced spontaneous shocks to the back and front of my brain and once again my mind, brain and body seemed to be reintegrated and I understood fully what I had been through and I could once again feel my legs.  I also became desperate and suicidal.  That gradually improved as the months passed.  Whatever the reasons for the catastrophic effects on my health, there is only one reason for what has happened and that is the fact that I tapered off 5 mg Nitrazepam in 2013 over a period of three months.  There is no other reason whatsoever for the subsequent devastation to my health.  Prior to that I was a functioning human being.

The very worst aspect of all this has been the attitude of the medical profession.  First of all it was my GP, the man who advised me to stop taking Nitrazepam.  When he realised I was damaged suddenly he had no knowledge or expertise of slow and safe tapering, nor could he offer an opinion on what had happened to me.  It seemed ignorance was to be his defence.  Yet he took it upon himself to suggest I stop taking a drug I had consumed for 40 years even though I expressed my concerns about following this course of action, concerns he did not discuss.   One of his GP partners did not want to get involved.  The psychiatrist whom I know well clearly wanted rid of me, he said my state of health was nothing to do with drug withdrawal.  The private neurologist also had no interest in me, he could not even answer my questions, he was very happy to take my money.  My GP had told me it would be a waste and now I know why.  Thankfully the NHS neurologist did admit it was the drugs and this was then confirmed by an addiction psychiatrist .. I am not an addict and have never been an addict.  Yet, the only doctor able to give an opinion works in the Substance Misuse Service.   How can this possibly be?

I have been campaigning online for some time now and contributed  to the petition to the Scottish Parliament.  I have appeared in the press, on radio and TV.  I have spent a great deal of time on Twitter trying to raise awareness and attempting to engage with Royal Colleges, leading psychiatrists, politicians and Government Ministers.  This has been one of the worse parts of the whole experience.  RCGP has partially blocked me and RCGP Scotland has completely blocked me.  I assume they did not like my accusations about my GP but cannot be sure.   I am very honest and I would never say anything that I did not believe was true.  Of course I have my own perceptions of what has happened and others may see things slightly differently but I do not think my accounts are wildly inaccurate.

I have met many other campaigners on Twitter, patients but also doctors.  It seems that we are all campaigning for the same reasons .. we cannot abide the culture of the NHS, the denial, the cover-ups, the bullying, the dishonesty, the pillorying of patients or families who dare to complain about the harm they or their loved ones have sustained.  The NHS is supposed to be a health service, it is supposed to care for people.  We all known mistakes are made, many many mistakes, some understandable others due to sheer negligence.  However, to cover these things up is a deliberate choice and it is clear that the NHS will choose to inflict serious harm on patients and their families by denying the truth of what has happened.  This to me is not the hallmark of a caring organisation.  I therefore do not love the NHS, I do not respect it, how could I possibly have high regard for such an organisation.  We all appreciate it is free at the point of use and we appreciate the many hard working members of staff who work in it.  Nor can I respect the profession of medicine whose members are also capable of inflicting serious pain and harm on patients though their silence, denial, deflection, half-truths and misinformation.  I see the Royal Colleges shamelessly promoting themselves on a daily basis knowing full well the immense harm that is being caused.  Instead they live in complacent denial or so it would seem.  So much of this harm could be avoided but those who could take steps to make things better for the many members of the prescribed harmed community choose not to do so.  The NHS and medical profession will of course put their own interests first, knowing full well that in so doing they are causing immense pain and distress.  Government Ministers and Civil Servants will of course do likewise.

I listened to the recent debate in the Scottish Parliament on suicide prevention, once again the existence of the prescribed harmed community was not mentioned, we are rarely ever mentioned.  Yet, all who participated were keen to stress that “every life matters”, I was left with the feeling that my life matters not a jot to those who claim that it does, however much they might claim otherwise.  But of course the Scottish Government has to protect its own interests first and foremost, after all  it has presided over years of mass prescribing of drugs of dependence, the source of the widespread harm.  If I had campaigned on mental health I would have been applauded for doing so by anyone and everyone, however I have chosen to campaign on iatrogenic harm, there is no applause when you choose to do that except from those who have been harmed themselves and a few brave doctors who stand alongside us and share our pain.   I cannot stand hypocrisy and everywhere I look that is what I see.   To be iatrogenically harmed is a far worse stigma than being mentally ill.  If I had a mental health issue I would be encouraged to speak about it, to shout it from the rooftops, to raise awareness, to reduce the stigma ….  I would be given a megaphone.


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Another milestone for me

Feeling somewhat better today and decided to make my own way round the supermarket with home help keeping an eye on me just in case.  There was a mix up today with the home helps and two turned up .. my usual one and another one who stands in for sickness and holiday leave.  I coped well thankfully as they tried to sort out who would stay and who would leave.   When I came home from the supermarket I decided I wanted to go swimming.  This is a huge leap for me .. usually I just want to crawl back into bed.  To be out twice in one day is something that is unheard of.  It is also extremely unusual to WANT to do anything, usually I have to force myself to do anything and mostly it is a huge effort.  I am happy today.



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Most people can recover from depression without any treatment

Depression used to be regarded as time-limited with the vast majority recovering without any medical interventions. Despite seeing psychiatrists for nearly four decades I was never informed of this.  I was admitted to hospital at a relatively young age, 24, and I started mixing with patients who had schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.  I married a man who was very unwell.  He never recovered and he died two years ago.  After his funeral I was told he was given an overdose of medication as a baby in hospital and I now wonder if in fact he had suffered some sort of brain damage at that very early age.  I believe his daily mental torment was more consistent with that possible explanation.  Decades of consuming psychiatric drugs had little positive effect and his physical heath and cognitive function were decimated.   As for myself, I internalised the belief that I was unlikely to ever recover and of course this became true because I was on a benzodiazepine which causes depression.  I did not know that this drug was having such an adverse effect on me.

And so today I read these quotes and I wonder why approximately 9 million patients in the UK are on antidepressants and why many of them will be on them for life.  I appreciate that they are prescribed for reasons other than depression but the majority surely would be for that reason.

(1) Jonathan Cole, NIMH, 1964: “Depression is, on the whole, one of the psychiatric conditions with the best prognosis for eventual recovery with or without treatment. Most depressions are self-limited.”

(2) Nathan Kline, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1964: “In the treatment of depression, one always has an ally the fact that most depressions terminate in spontaneous remissions. This means that in many cases regardless of what one does the patient eventually will begin to get better.”

(3) Dean Schuyler, head of the depression section at the NIMH, 1974: Most depressive episodes “will run their course and terminate with virtually complete recovery without specific intervention.”

All three quotes are from History We Can’t Overlook Anymore:  Details Before the Anti-Depressant Era


It seems to me that the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry have created a mental health epidemic and there appears to be no end to it.  The NHS cannot cope with demand and we continue to fuel the belief that medication is needed.  The Royal College of Psychiatry seems to know little about the issues of dependence or the many difficulties associated with withdrawal.  They regularly promote these drugs, without providing factual information to the public.  They use slogans and soundbites such as they “save lives” and attempt to silence those who have been seriously harmed by them.

Leading psychiatrists make statements in the national press for which they cannot provide any evidence.  Patients who feel they benefit from them sometimes promote the drugs as if they were harmless sweeties.  Those of us who have been harmed spend a great deal of time doing research and what we find is utterly shocking.  We are accused of demonising the drugs, but if patients knew the truth they might be equally horrified.

The President of the Royal College has recently stated on Twitter that she trusts MHRA and NICE and seems entirely unaware of much of the information about how these drugs were tested and brought to market.   I find this utterly astonishing.

As a member of the public with a fair bit of knowledge of the medical profession and the academic world I had assumed that any announcement in the national press by someone with the title Professor would at least be based on a sound evidence base but apparently this is not the case.  Journalists and the media approach leading psychiatrists for their opinions on the assumption that they have the expertise to comment.

Professor Wendy Burn in a letter to the Times stated that antidepressants withdrawal lasts for two weeks for the vast majority, she now says this opinion is based on her 30 years clinical experience.  She works with the elderly and advises us this age group does not experience problems with antidepressant withdrawal.  In the letter to the Times she said that Dr James Davies was “quite wrong” to say withdrawal could last for months or years, yet Dr Davies had in fact conducted a survey of the online patient community for antidepressant dependence and withdrawal.  I helped to circulate the questionnaire.

I now realise that Prof Wendy Burn could have been any clinician voicing an opinion but the public will of course assume because of her title and role as President, that her views must indeed have some authority.   I would have thought that myself until very recently.   Prof David Baldwin who jointly authored the letter could only provide scientific papers of very short term clinical trials which do not in any way reflect what is happening in the real world.  However, the views of Dr James Davies were dismissed with the stroke of the keyboard without any justification whatsoever.

Much of this is about power .. the power of the Royal College, the power of psychiatry, power over other health care professions, power over patients and very little has to do with good science, professionalism or ethics.

How wonderful it would been to know all those years ago that most patients can recover from depression without any medical intervention whatsoever.   I can only imagine that my many doctors knew full well I was suffering iatrogenic harm for most of my adult life but they watched me struggle through life, disabled by a little white pill called Nitrazepam.





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