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Scunthorpe Telegraph
November 23, 2002
by Paul Savage

A Bottesford man, who set up his own website and forum to help people addicted to prescribed drugs, is helping hundreds of people across the globe.

Branded a 'lifesaver' by many of his readers, Ray Nimmo, has become an international leading light in raising awareness of the problems with Benzodiazepines.

As previously reported, Ray Nimmo received 40,000 in compensation after being prescribed drugs which made him live in a state of 'suicidal depression'.

After spending 14 years on the drugs, he finally managed to come off them and, in a unique case, he sued his GP for prescribing the drug Valium.

More than two years ago, Ray decided to set up a website detailing his plight, offering an online portal for fellow sufferers around the world.

The site has now become something of a Mecca, with almost 1,200 members signed up from Canada, USA, the UK, India, China, Australia and Iceland.

Ray said the inspiration behind the website's creation came when he came off the drugs in 1998.

He said: "There was a problem and I wanted to inform people about the dangers of these drugs because there are right ways and there are wrong ways to withdraw from them.

"The website was started to raise awareness and help people to get off them and recover."

Indeed many of the site's regular visitors claim Ray is their hero and has directly saved the lives of many people who suffer with depression and many other symptoms caused from the drugs.

"There are more than 450 pages now and it has become an oasis," he said.

"We get loads of feedback and it can be quite embarrassing sometimes because I never intended to style myself as a guru."

To raise awareness of the damaging effects of the Benzodiazepine drugs further, Ray has lent his support to the Beat The Benzos campaign.

Earlier this week he attended a specially arranged reception at the House of Commons, where his case was outlined to MPs at a parliamentary reception and launch of an Early Day Motion - which draws parliamentary attention to issues - to highlight over-prescription of the tranquilliser drugs, such as Valium and Rohypnol, and call for tighter prescription guidelines for GPs.

He said: "We want to stop doctors prescribing these drugs. There are 1.2-million people officially on these drugs long-term, but we feel it may be more like two-million.

"We want to see proper withdrawal centres provided. The withdrawal from these drugs is like no other - it is a slow process getting off.

"We also want to see a 24-hour helpline as this is a round-the-clock problem."

Mr Nimmo said he also wanted to see the Government be more sympathetic towards benefit claims from those suffering from being prescribed the drugs.

"We are made sick by doctors, who are paid by the state, but we are denied benefits for being ill," he added.

Mr Nimmo said Scunthorpe MP Elliot Morley had also thrown his weight behind the campaign, even though, as a minister, he could not sign any Early Day Motion.

"He congratulated me and pledged support to me and the cause," Mr Nimmo added.

He said among the 94 who had signed the motion so far were Phil Woolas MP (Oldham East and Saddleworth), John Grogan MP (Selby), Sir Sydney Chapman MP (Chipping Barnet) an Ann Widdecombe.

For more information on the website and the campaign visit www.benzo.org.uk

Sufferers come from all over the world to visit Ray's website. He is described by all of them as a lifesaver. Here are a few of them, some talking about their experiences for the first time.

Julie Keyser
of Calgary, Canada

Julie Keyser, (pictured left) of Calgary, Canada, is a regular reader of Ray's website. She was prescribed the drug Klonopin and took it for 15 years.

Julie is now doing all she can from 'across the pond' to try and raise the profile of the campaign and in turn save people's lives by setting up her own support group for sufferers in North America.

She said: "I basically had 15 years stolen from me by doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

"These drugs cause people to become depressed to the point of suicide.

"Only by lobbying the Government will this issue be exposed."

Julie added she believed Ray's work was a 'godsend' which had saved the lives of many people across the world.

"This website not only contains a wealth of information provided by world experts in Benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal, but it offers victims a safe haven to receive and give support to each other.

"For all of us it validates our feelings that something was physically and mentally wrong with us and that our doctors were not providing us with proper treatment or information.

Julie believes it is impossible for anyone to fully comprehend the 'horrifying trial' Benzo sufferers have had to go through.

"Our stories sound like they come from the dark ages - certainly not from the year 2002. But, sadly, they are all true and we share many frightening, painful symptoms.

"I cannot describe the gratitude my support group and I feel for having access to this life-saving website."

David Haga
of Michigan, USA

David Haga, (pictured left) lives in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. He lost his wife and children and '10 years of my life' after being prescribed a cocktail of drugs.

David suffered a concussion in 1992 and when he told doctors he felt he needed a month on the sofa, they decided he was depressed and prescribed Prozac.

"I had extreme anxiety from Prozac and was prescribed Xanax," he said. "I quickly became dependent on Xanax - I could not stop taking it."

After being switched to the Benzodiazepine Klonopin, then Paxil, David described himself as a 'different person'.

"After three years on Klonopin I was a different person, my wife and kids left. I could barely work.

"At this point I was a mess, and the doctor tried many anti-depressants to try to fix the mess he had made of me.

"He could not tell me what was wrong with me, or would not say it was the chemical concoction I was on that caused my ills."

David had also been prescribed the dangerous concoction of Klonopin, Lorazepam, Alprazolam, Paxil and lithium and it was only the advice of an independent health company, which ordered David to flush them down the toilet, which helped to see an improvement.

"I lost my family, career, and am now on state benefits. It is terribly wrong to prescribe these drugs long term (and so many are also prescribed a chemical cocktail) and expect the individual to still function. I am now feeling the closest I have to the real me in 10 years."

Adding Ray's website had spurred him on to aid his recovery, David added: "I want to move on and forget but can't seem to do that. I am a shadow of the man I used to be."

  • Denise McCarthy, from San Marcos, California, prescribed Xanax in June 1996, said: "I admire Ray greatly for his commitment to spreading the truth about such a horrific addiction. "There is nothing that bonds people more than knowing that we are not alone! To be so in the grips of a type of insanity that defies description, and then to not be acknowledged, it's a wonder that any of us survive this addiction.'

  • Marie-Line Vasseur, from Montréal, Canada, on Klonopin for a year, suffered memory loss, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and muscle pains during this time, said: "Ray's site has become my life support."

  • Julie Wills, from Wheaton, Illinois, prescribed Lorazepam for anxiety, said: "Ray's website was a lifesaver. I may never have really determined my problem had it not been for him."

  • Colin Downes-Grainger, who lives in Redcar, said he had been on Valium for 30 years, suffering 80 different side effects, including chronic insomnia, painful aching and buzzing limbs. "I was 25 when I became addicted and 55 when I understood this fact. Like going to sleep for 30 years," he added."

  • Benzodiazepines are a large class of commonly prescribed tranquillisers, otherwise referred to as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, anxiolytics and sedative-hypnotics. They include lorazepam (Ativan), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Rivotril, Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), oxazepam (Serax, Serenid), temazepam (Restoril, Euhypnos, Normison), and nitrazepam (Mogadon).

  • They are most commonly prescribed for anxiety conditions, insomnia and panic disorder.

  • All Benzodiazepines have five primary effects. They are:

    • Hypnotic (tending to make you sleepy)
    • Anxiolytic (tending to reduce anxiety/produce relaxation)
    • Anti-seizure (tending to reduce the probability of having seizures and convulsions)
    • Muscle relaxant (tending to reduce muscle tension and associated pain)
    • Amnesic (amnestic) (tending to disrupt both long and short term memory).

  • 1.2 million people in the UK are addicted long-term to Benzodiazepines.

  • Official UK prescribing guidelines (1988) advised doctors not to prescribe Benzodiazepines for more than 2-4 weeks but they have been routinely ignored.

  • Benzodiazepines have often been called the most widely prescribed group of drugs in the world and the biggest selling drugs in the history of medicine with worldwide sales in excess of $21 billion in 1999. Approximately 10% - 20% of the world population use tranquillisers and sleeping pills, often over many years and have become "accidental" or "involuntary addicts".

  • Benzodiazepine addiction has been described as "the biggest drug-addiction problem in the world." (Dr Vernon Coleman, 1985)

  • "It is more difficult to withdraw people from Benzodiazepines than it is from heroin." (Professor Malcolm Lader)

  • Benzodiazepines kill more people than Class A drugs: In England and Wales between 1990 and 1996 1,623 people overdosed on heroin, morphine and other opiates while 1,810 died from Benzodiazepines. In Scotland in 1998, the most recent figures available, 114 people died from heroin and morphine overdoses but 151 died from taking Benzodiazepines.

  • Long-term use of Benzodiazepines causes emotional blunting, depression, increasing anxiety, poor memory and cognition, manifold physical ailments, dependence, toxicity, impairment of memory, aggression, adverse effects in pregnancy, drowsiness, acute confusional states, tremulousness, crying, poor concentration, nocturnal confusion, agitation, inco-ordination and ataxia. Unsurprisingly misdiagnoses are very commonly made and it is not unusual for someone on benzos long term to be prescribed one or more antidepressants.

  • Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms: Excitability (jumpiness, restlessness), insomnia, nightmares, other sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia, social phobia, perceptual distortions, depersonalisation, derealisation, hallucinations, misperceptions, depression, obsessions, paranoid thoughts, rage, aggression, irritability, poor memory and concentration, intrusive memories, craving (rare).

  • Physical Withdrawal Symptoms: Headache, pain/stiffness (limbs, back, neck, teeth, jaw), tingling, numbness, altered sensation (limbs, face, trunk), weakness ("jelly-legs"), fatigue, influenza-like symptoms, fasciculations (muscle twitches, jerks, tics), "electric shocks", tremor, dizziness, light-headedness, poor balance, blurred/double vision, sore or dry eyes, tinnitus, hypersensitivity (light, sound, touch, taste, smell), gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, pain, distension, difficulty swallowing), appetite/weight change, dry mouth, metallic taste, unusual smell, flushing/sweating/palpitations, overbreathing, urinary difficulties/menstrual difficulties, skin rashes, itching, fits (rare).

  • Protracted Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome: A sizeable number of people who have withdrawn from Benzodiazepines seem to suffer long-term protracted symptoms that just don't go away even after many years. Protracted Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include: Anxiety, depression, insomnia, sensory symptoms (tinnitus, tingling, numbness, deep or burning pain in limbs, feeling of inner trembling or vibration, strange skin sensations), motor symptoms (muscle pain, weakness, painful cramps, tremor, jerks, spasms, shaking attacks), poor memory and cognition, gastrointestinal symptoms.

Report by Paul Savage, Scunthorpe Telegraph

Media Archive · Beat The Benzos 2002

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