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ADDICTION BY PRESCRIPTION
(Topic of May workshops)
(Prince Edward Island's Home Newspaper),
April 29, 2003
by Patricia Roy
Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series on addiction to prescription medications by Patricia Roy. The next one will feature an interview with a woman who became addicted to prescription medication after suffering an injury.
When tragedy strikes, the response from the medical profession is often to medicate in order to help people cope.
And that's just what happened to Joan Gadsby when her four-year-old son died of a brain tumor in 1966.
Over the next 20 years, her career, family, financial security and health were all compromised or threatened by her addiction to prescribed medication.
Gadsby, author of Addiction by Prescription, One Woman's Triumph and Fight For Change, has emerged from her addiction to become an internationally-recognized expert and public speaker on the responsible and informed use of benzodiazepines, (tranquilizers and sleeping pills).
She will present a series of workshops for service providers and health-care workers on the potential risks and consequences of prescription drugs addictions.
The free workshops and presentations, co-sponsored by the East Prince Women's Information Centre, and the Prince County Addiction Auxiliary, will take place in three regions of the province May 14 to 16.
Public presentations will take place May 14, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall, at the Loyalist Country Inn in Summerside Thursday, May 15, and at the Rodds Mill River Resort, May 16.
Presentations for physicians will take place at Prince County Hospital from 8 to 9 a.m. May 15, and in West Prince May 16, with time and location to be confirmed.
Gadsby states in her book that many people are under the impression that they would have to take sleeping pills for long periods of time in order to become addicted when, in fact, 60 per cent of users suffer adverse effect and withdrawal after just two to four weeks of use at therapeutic dose levels.
She notes that withdrawals symptoms can include insomnia, panic attacks, agitation, hallucinations, anxiety, loss of appetite, weight loss, visual distortions, lack of concentration, nightmares, depression palpitations, creeping sensations in the skin, sweating, nausea, increased sensitivity to light, touch and smell and the list goes on.
The long-term, adverse effect of these medication has been known for a long time, yet, Gadsby notes that thousands of lives have been devastated by the over-prescribing of such subtances.
Dr. Reg Peart, president international Benzodiazepine Awareness Network, London, England, states on the back jacket of Gadsby's book, that "sleeping pills and tranquilizers are the best-selling drugs in the history of medicine, with annual world-wide sales of an estimated $21 billion."
Despite society's belief that there should be a pill for every ill and the push by drug manufacturers to further this notion, as well as the fact that patients may not be totally without guilt, Gadsby makes no apologies in her book as to where the blame really lies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 33 per cent of diseases today are caused by medical treatment or doctor-induced illness.
"Doctors are the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer, causing an estimated 250,000 deaths each year according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2000."
In the United States, statistics compiled by the Drug Abuse-Warning Network regarding hospital emergency-department admissions show that benzodiazepine accounted for more suicide attempts each year than any other prescription drug.
However, Gadsby says conscientious health professionals see the dangers and havoc created by these drugs and a worldwide movement to educate and change the status quo is gaining momentum.
"It is legally significant, too, that there are more and more cases worldwide of people being charged with crimes such as shoplifting, criminal negligence in vehicular accidents, assault, manslaughter and murder, and using what is termed the "benzo defence" in court.
Under the influence of these drugs, defendants claim, they simply had no idea what they were doing, could not recall or did not know the role of drug effects in precipitating their aggressive, hostile, antisocial and violent behavior.
Research going back decades supports this," Gadsby writes.
"There is little doubt that people become disabled from these drugs - both when they are on them and during withdrawals - and that they can suffer cognitive impairment for years following discontinuance."
Although the quality of her life is 10 times what it was while she was on the drugs, Gadsby says she lives with their long-term and residual effects, including sensitivity to light, some problems with co-ordination, some emotional flatness and some cognitive-related difficulties.
Gadsby, who is president/owner of Market Media International Corporation, graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, has an honorary PhD prescription drug addiction, medical research, public health and promotion.
Co-executive producer and research consultant of TV documentary, Our Pill Epidemic - The Shocking Story of a Society Hooked on Drugs, Gadsby has done post-graduate studies in an MBA program at University of British Columbia, Marketing and Industrial Relations, and was a councillor for the district of North Vancouver for 13 years.
Joan Gadsby's Main Page on this Site · Joan Gadsby's Prescription Addiction Website
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