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BBC Radio Humberside


The Breakfast Show

with Andy Comfort (Hull) and
Ruth Barcroft (Grimsby)
June 27, 2002
Actual time of interview: 7.37am

Ruth: When you go to the doctors and get prescribed drugs it's in the belief that this will make you better.

Andy: But for one man from Northern Lincolnshire it's led to more than a decade of misery. Ray Nimmo from Bottesford had dental problems. When this got worse he was prescribed diazepam, then after that, a cocktail of tranquillisers which left him living in a state of suicidal depression.

Ruth: Well he's just agreed a settlement of 40,000 and Ray Nimmo joins us on the line now. Good morning to you.

Ray: Good morning Ruth.

Ruth: If we could just briefly get the story. How was it possible that a simple case of toothache could end up in you becoming suicidally depressed?

Ray: Ah well, back in 1984 I couldn't get to see a dentist so I went to my doctor. I was suffering from a dental infection and he prescribed an antibiotic. I had an allergic reaction to it and one of the problems I was left with was a severe abdominal pain which my doctor described as a muscular spasm. He prescribed a powerful benzodiazepine tranquilliser and it didn't work. So I was then given a succession of tranquillisers and by 1985 - early in 1985 - I was on a high dose of diazepam - also called Valium of course.

Ruth: Hm-hm.

Ray: And I was left on that drug until 1998 when I changed doctors.

Ruth: And this is the one which has seriously affected your life basically?

Ray: Indeed. Yes.

Ruth: What sort of effects has it had?

Ray: Well, within a short space of time I became very anxious. I had panic attacks; I suffered from agoraphobia and of course suicidal depression. I was locked in this sort of cocoon - this twilight world of paranoia and fear. I wouldn't answer the door, I wouldn't answer the telephone - anything like that - it was a living nightmare.

Ruth: Did you have any idea that this was being caused by the drugs or did you think this was just you?

Ray: Well I thought it was me! My doctor always told me it's you - you're the problem, and these drugs that I was taking were supposed to be helping me but of course they weren't!

Ruth: No. Well you managed to take legal action and you've now been awarded 40,000.

Ray: That's right. Yeah.

Ruth: How does that make you feel? Does that help?

Ray: Well yes. But it's a small amount really if you compare the 18 years of suffering and I've still got the ongoing suffering because even though I'm three and a half years off the drugs I still have problems - physical symptoms because these drugs damage the nervous system. But it opens the door for other people to come forward and take action against their doctors for similar kinds of suffering.

Ruth: Because yours is quite an unprecedented case.

Ray: It is indeed. Yeah, it's the first one that's been reported in public. I think there have been some cases in the past but they've had gagging orders on them.

Ruth: What's your advice to other people then? Are a lot of people still taking these benzodiazepines?

Ray: Yeah. In 1988 the Committee on Safety of Medicines - that's a government body - sent a letter round to all prescribing doctors telling them not to prescribe this category of drugs (that's the benzodiazepine tranquillisers) for more than 2-4 weeks full stop, and yet doctors disregard that and there are now, what, one and a half million people left, long-term on these drugs throughout the country.

Ruth: What's your hope for your future and for the future of others like you?

Ray: I hope to go on getting better. There has been an improvement over the past three and a half years. Two years ago I started a web site - that's at www.benzo.org.uk (these drugs are called benzos) and I've recently started a new support forum for people - for sufferers all around the world - it's become quite popular.

Ruth: Well let's hope that your story may help other people in the future.

Ray: I hope so too.

Ruth: Ray Nimmo, thank you very much for speaking to us this morning.

Ray: Thank you.

Ruth: That's Ray Nimmo from Bottesford in Northern Lincolnshire.

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