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Journal Pioneer,
(Prince Edward Island's Home Newspaper),
May 14, 2003
by Patricia Roy

Joan Gadsby jogs along the waterfront
near her Vancouver home

Editor's Note: The following is among a series of articles dealing with the problem of addiction to prescription drugs.

Since overcoming her addiction to prescription drugs 10 years ago, Joan Gadsby has been doing a lot of educating about the effects of benzodiazepines.

In free public presentations taking place May 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall, the Loyalist Country Inn in Summerside Thursday, May 15, and at Rodd's Mill River Resort May 16, Gadsby will identify the current obstacles and the solutions to the problem of addiction by prescription.

She said the public is not aware that productivity, safety, decision making impairment, car accidents, increased disability claims costs, legal and justice system costs, lost years, emergency room admissions, drug costs, addiction centres and professionals, are now in the millions of dollars.

"The socio-economic impacts are immense," the author of Addiction by Prescription said recently.

A lot of research has gone into studying the side effects and dangers of benzodiazepines, but bringing awareness about the results of this research to physicians and their patients is a different matter.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not doctor bashing," she said. "What I'm saying here is that there are some doctors...and on this point, I really, really want to commend Dr. Sheldon Cameron for being unafraid to speak up on this issue."

She said making sure people are informed, so they can ask the proper questions about what they are being prescribed is the goal of the awareness campaign and workshops.

"And to not simply say, I trust my doctor to do no harm and then end up having to live with the consequences, because the consequences can lead to being an accidental addict."

Even if doctors are pressed for time, they have sworn an Hippocratic oath to do no harm and have an obligation to ensure patients are properly informed, yet less than 20 per cent take the time to educate, Gadsby said.

"That's one side of the problem and the other is that less than one third of doctors know how to diagnose addiction to prescription drugs.

Promoting 'diseases' and 'pushing pills' are the mainstay of drug company strategies for increasing sales and profits. And what better way than addictive drugs requiring repeat prescribing and use?"

A five-year study, 1997 to 2002, in the State of Maine revealed that 88 per cent of suicide overdose victims and 52 per cent of accidental overdose victims had a prescription for at least one drug implicated in the cause of death - predominantly benzodiazepines and antidepressants.

Gadsby said adverse effects of benzodiazepines have been known for over two decades.

They include paradoxical agitation, behavioural changes, impaired new learning, decreased short and long-term memory, impaired psychomotor functioning, (many times leading to accidents and/or falls), rage, suicidal ideation, emotional anesthesia, floppy baby syndrome (similar to fetal alcohol syndrome).

However, little has been done to address the problem or to change doctors' entrenched prescribing habits.

She says cross addiction to other drugs and alcohol occur in 73 per cent of benzodiazepine users - many of whom never used or had problems with alcohol or other drugs before.

A 1996 study at Stockholm University in Sweden revealed 51 per cent of patients dependent on tranquilizers and sleeping pills showed signs of acquired intellectual deterioration and impairment (which can be permanent).

Gadsby presented a recommended health-care resolution to the Canadian government in 2001, which read in part: "Whereas neither Health Canada (whose mandate is the health and safety of Canadians) nor the medical profession, nor the pharmaceutical industry at large have taken adequate steps to stem the continued misprescribing and use of benzodiazepines or to properly inform Canadians of the perils of these drugs."

Joan Gadsby's Main Page/a> · Joan Gadsby's Prescription Addiction Website

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