Welcome to the

Vancouver

Benzodiazepine Support Group

Location: Vancouver B.C. Canada       Last updated:Febuary 2021


Purpose of the VBSG:

The purpose of the Vancouver Benzodiazepine Support Group (VBSG) is to provide general information, help and assistance to all those people who are either:

a) Still taking Benzodiazepine (Benzo) on a regular basis but would now like to get off the drug. Or,
b) Have recently stopped taking Benzo and are now dealing with uncomfortable Benzo withdrawal symptoms.

Regardless of the initial reasons why you took Benzo, the overwhelming advice offered by all previous Benzo users, is that you stop taking the drug ASAP thereby avoiding all further possible harmful side effects on the body and brain. However, if one were to simply stop taking the drug instantly, it is almost guaranteed that you would experience any number of overbearing ‘withdrawal’ symptoms that would simply be un-acceptable and even life threatening.

The preferred solution is that one must WITHDRAW SLOWLY, thereby reducing the amount of Benzo taken week by week until you can finally cope without any drug at all. Once you become totally free of the drug, the brain is supposed to slowly heal all by itself. However, it is very evident that even if you become drug free, withdrawal symptoms may continue for a very long time afterwards, even several years or more. It is during this challenging withdrawal phase that people require the most support and guidance.

Important Note: During any attempted withdrawal process, you must be under the care and guidance of your GP or other qualified drug addiction specialist.


Typical Withdrawal Symptoms:

It seems evident that whatever damage has been incurred in the brain by taking a Benzo based medication, there could basically be two distinct types of withdrawal symptoms as follows.

1) Psychological Symptoms:
Psychological symptoms include such things as anxiety and depression etc. which are considered as impairment to the mental state of the patient.
Please refer to Prof. Ashton's Manual for a more detailed description by clicking here.

2) Physical 'Motor' Symptoms:
Physical Motor symptoms seem to manifest themselves by having a direct effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS). This in turn causes massive stress and tension to be spread throughout the entire body via the nervous system. Typical withdrawal would include:
            - insomnia
            - stomach problems, especially abdominal pain and diarrhoea
            - chest pain, hyperventilation
            - flushing, sweating
            - palpitations, rapid heart beat
            - fatigue, exhaustion
            - hypersensitive to noise, light, smell, taste, touch
            - vision and hearing problems
            - flu-like feeling
            - headache, dizziness, light headedness
            - muscle spasms, pain, weakness, stiffness
            - stuffy nose, sinus congestion
            - dry mouth, increased thirst, trouble swallowing
            - itching
            - numbness, tingling or burning skin sensations
            - appetite and weight changes
            - bladder and urination problems
            - decreased sexual desire
            - female hormone problems
You can read a more detailed description of possible withdrawal symptoms presented by Island Health by clicking here.

The term 'Motor' symptoms was first used by Prof. Ashton when she published 'The Ashton Manual' in March 1995. To read this manual please click here.

3) Benzo Belly Symptoms:
Benzo Belly is another common withdrawal symptom which includes: bloating, distension and discomfort in the entire stomach area. Benzo Belly pain can last months and months after acute withdrawal is over. It is slightly less common than other symptoms but still prevalent, and it’s little-understood by both the people experiencing it and the medical community.
For a fairly detailed explanation and overview of Benzo Belly symptoms click here.


Motor Symptoms and Simple Relief Treatment:

To gain more detailed information as to the nature of 'Motor' symptoms and a few helpful hints on general stress relief, you can read an in-depth account of the severe Motor symptoms experienced by the founder of the VBSG web site (Denzobenzo) by clicking here.

If you or anyone else you know can provide information about potential help with relief and recovery, please contact VBSG by clicking here.


Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How To Withdraw:

General information for those people who want to end benzodiazepine addiction and recover from withdrawal syndromes.

Prof. Heather Ashton:

To read Prof. Ashton's general overview of 'How They Work and How To Withdraw' click here.

To see examples of slow withdrawal schedules by Prof. Ashton click here.


Withdrawal Experiences by Real People:

1) Prof.Ashton and Prof. Lader

This documentary tells the hidden story of how benzodiazepines can both main and kill. The serious crippling physical side effects of these drugs can last for years after the medication is stopped, possibly permanently. Documentary contains interviews from both Prof.Ashton and Prof. Lader. Click here.

2) Peter Hayes-Davies - Recovering From Benzodiazepines:

To read a fantastic and personal account that is full of valuable information on every aspect of Benzo withdrawal including the comment: "Benzo withdrawal is brain damage. Years of using this drug as prescribed by our doctors can only lead to a state of impairment in the Central Nervous System (CNS) equivalent to that of having a stroke. The only difference is, where the brain damage caused by a stroke goes recognized (by medical authorities) and receives constant care/therapy and reassurance in order to heal, that of benzo withdrawal is NOT recognized and goes unsupported and even denied." click here.

3) Dr. Jennifer Leigh:

A major problem faced by people dealing with Benzo withdrawal symptoms is the sad fact that in many (if not most) cases, family and friends will not be able to understand their health issues and cosequently be unable, or unwilling, to offer any help and support during this difficult period. You can read what Jennifer has to say about this issue by clicking here.


Professional Medical Advice in Vancouver:

At the time of writing, VBSG is unaware of any formal and authorised help regarding Benzo withdrawal within the B.C. medical system. To our knowledge there is only one qualified doctor available in the Vancouver area who understands the implication of taking Benzo and who understands and supports a Benzo withdrawal program. See Dr. James Wright below

If you know of any other local doctors who have an interest in helping Benzo withdrawal patients, please email us their contact info by clicking here.

1) Dr. James M. Wright:

Dr. James M. Wright, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC
Director – Therapeutics Initiative and Professor - Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics
University of British Columbia - Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Email: jmwright@mail.ubc.ca Otherwise: call 604-822-4270 for an appointment.

2) Dr. Larina Reyes-Smith:

Works at the Alliance Clinic in Surrey where physicians together have over 25 years of experience managing patients struggling with addiction disorders in detox facilities, hospital inpatient units, recovery homes and other sites. Qualifications include board certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and certification from the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM). Larina works at Health Local: 10085 Whalley Blvd Surrey Tel: 604-582-5826 For more information click here.

For some general background info about Larina click here.

3) Vancouver Coastal Health:

To find a suitable health service in your area try, visiting the VCH web site by clicking here.
To find a drug addiction specialist in your area try visiting the 'Vancouver Coastal Health' Stepping Stones service by clicking here.
For more general information about Benzodizepines presented by the Vancouver eMentalHealth group click here.

4) Vancouver Coastal Health - Access and Assessment Centre (AAC):

For help in locating hospital services in the Vancouver area call AAC at: 604-675-3700 - available 24/7, 365 days a year.
Or visit their web site for more information by clicking here.

5) College of Physicians and Surgeons in British Columbia:

To locate a specialist in your area try visiting the 'College of Physicians and Surgeons in British Columbia' by clicking here.


List of Benzodiazepine based drugs:

Examples include: Diazepam, Lorazepam, Chlordiazepoxide, Oxazepam, Temazepam, Nitrazepam, Loprazolam, Lormetazepam, Clobazam and Clonazepam.

For more information about Benzo based drugs you can refer to the Ashton 'Benzodiazepine Equivalence Table' by clicking here.
For a detailed list of the different types of Benzodiazepines click here.


Other Useful Links:

Here are some links to several informative Benzo web sites:

1) Definitions:

Wikipedia - Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome click here.
Wikipedia - Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome (Signs_and_symptoms) click here.

2) Medical Research:

Professor C Heather Ashton, DM, FRCP
For the best and most comprehensive information on benzodiazepine withdrawal you are encouraged to read:
Benzodiazepines: How they Work & How to Withdraw (The Ashton Manual)

Professor Malcolm H Lader of the Institute of Psychiatry has published more than 100 papers on the subject of benzodiazepines see: Withdrawal Syndrome
Also, listen to him speaking on the British BBC Radio 4 program that highlights the massive Benzo 'Prescribed Addiction' problem in the UK 'Face the Facts' July 27 2011.

3) Psychiatric Medication Awareness Group (PMAG):

A small group of concerned British Columbians based in Victoria B.C. click here.

4) Public blogging web sites:

Consisting of articles, information, expert medical documents, news stories and personal accounts.

      benzo.org UK click here.
      benzosupport.org USA click here.

      Prof. Ashton List of Potential Withdrawal Symptoms
      Prof. Ashton Benzodiazepines: How They Work And How To Withdraw
      Prof. Ashton Adverse effects of Prolonged Benzodiazepine Use
      Prof. Ashton Benzodiazepine Withdrawal: Outcome in 50 Patients

5) Community based information sites:

a) CNN (Youtube):
This is Life with Lisa Ling "The Benzo Crisis " click " here.

b) CNN (Youtube):
Physician Assistant Commentary on Lisa Ling's "The Benzo Crisis" click here.

c) BBC Radio:
Here is a link to a fantastic 30 minute BBC radio show called "Face The Facts" in which they do an in-depth study into the problem of ‘Benzo miss-prescription’ in the UK 2011. Click here.

d) Bristol & District Tranquilliser Project in the UK:
For an incredible example of services that can be organized and offered, you can visit the website of the 'Bristol & District Tranquilliser Project' in the UK, a voluntary organization set up in 1985 to help people who are experiencing involuntary addiction to prescribed medications such as Benzos. click here.

e) Benzo Free:
A very user friendly and informative Podcast dedicated to Anti-Anxiety Drugs, Sleeping Pills, Dependence, and Withdrawal click here.

6) Health Canada:

You can report adverse drug reactions from benzodiazepines directly to Health Canada by clicking here.

7) Worldwide Call To Action:

Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (W-BAD):
If you are interested in taking part in organized partitions against the current misuse of Benzo medications, you could start by visiting the W-BAD web site by clicking here.
Or, to hear the collective voices of the long-suffering benzodiazepine-injured community and learn from their experiences, you could visit the W-BAD Facebook page by clicking here.

8) Benzo And The Brain:

Research indicates that the effect of Benzo is to enhance the natural effect of GABA in the brain. GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain and GABA’s natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds. Apparently Benzo helps GABA to reduce neural activity even further which in turn, help to calm us down. This research also seem to suggest that with the onset of 'tolerance', the brain no longer has the required levels of GABA necessary to switch the brain into normal relaxation and sleep mode.

For more precise information on how Benzo and GABA interact in the brain check out these links:
1) Anxiety Neurotransmitters GABA Receptors click here.
2) Wikipedia click here.
3) Denver Naturopathic Clinic click here.

For more background information on when Benzos were first recognized as being totally detrimental to your health check out these links:
1) Brain Damage from Benzodiazepines: The Troubling Facts, Risks, and History of Minor Tranquilizers click here.
2) Drugs Linked To Brain Damage 30 Years Ago click here.
3) The Ashton Manual Supplement here.

Here is a link to a very informative article submitted to Benzobuddies. It provides a great insight into the temporary effects of "brain injury" caused by taking Benzos. It also explains what your brain/central nervous system goes through during taper and beyond click here.

9) Benzo And The Central Nervous System:

One thing that seems only too clear for long term Benzo withdrawal sufferers is that, whatever is wrong in the brain, immediately affects the nervous system throughout the body i.e. the CNS. Problems in the CNS can, and do, affect just about every other part of the body, the most obvious being aches, pains, cramps, stiffness and fatigue etc. throughout the entire body. These symptoms are all included in Prof. Ashton’s list of ‘MOTOR’ symptoms. However, within the world’s medical systems, doctors and neurologist etc. are still led to believe that withdrawal symptoms will only last a few weeks or months at most. If they were to actually listen to what long term Benzo patients are actually saying, they would quickly find out that that is simply NOT TRUE.

Here is a sample account of one patients actual, and yet so typical, experience:

My doctor “had no training in severe withdrawal reactions. Likewise the neurologist, who was aware of the Ashton Manual, told me that the symptoms could not be withdrawal because it had been 2 months since I stopped taking them. I have yet to be able to find out why doctors believe this. Where have the myths around withdrawal from prescribed drugs come from? Why are doctors unable to believe the evidence before them and patient accounts of their experiences? Given the neurologist had read Prof Aston’s work why could he not make the connection between my symptoms and what she says about the length of time withdrawal lasts, the severity and variety of symptoms and that patients can experience them over months or even years?”

To read her full story published in the British Medical Journal July 2018 entitled 'Tackling benzodiazepine misuse' click here.


Why British Columbia Needs A Comprehensive Benzodiazepine Strategy:

For all those patients who were prescribed Benzo (for whatever reason) and are now only to well aware as to the drastic consequences, it quickly becomes obvious that B.C Medical Health Care service lacks both the interest, knowledge and ability to provide any direct help and assistance. This 'flaw' with the BCMA has been accurately detailed by the Psychiatric Medication Awareness Group (PMAG) based in Victoria B.C. You can read a detailed account of the PMAG recommendations why B.C. needs a comprehensive Benzo strategy by clicking here.

College of Pharmacists of British Columbia

The Ashton Manual was first introduced to the medical community in Canada in September 2000. The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia was the first regulatory body in the world to see it and immediately requested 830 copies and sent them out to every pharmacy in British Columbia on October 12, 2000. The Ashton Manual is now promoted by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, March/April 2001 Bulletin. Additionally, in a joint venture in March 2001 the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Pharmaceutical Association provided every doctor's office and pharmacy in the province with a copy of the Ashton Manual.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC)

The CPSBC develops Practice Standards and Professional Guidelines to assist physicians in meeting high standards of medical practice and conduct.
In August 5, 2016 the CPSBC released their 'Professional Standards and Guidelines - Safe Prescribing of Drugs with Potential for Misuse/Diversion' document as a guide to all medical professional when it comes to prescribing certain drugs. To quote the CPSBC:

"The public health crisis of prescription drug misuse has developed in part due to the prescribing of physicians. The profession has a collective ethical responsibility to mitigate its contribution to the problem of prescription drug misuse, particularly the over-prescribing of opioids, sedatives and stimulants."

A more recent document published in June 2018 by the CPSBC entitled 'Practice Standard - Safe Prescribing of Opioids and Sedatives' can be read by clicking here.


Disclaimer

Use of this site and the respective resources are subject to acceptance of our conditions of use and the following disclaimer:

VBSG does not provide individual advice or respond to individual requests for assistance with discontinuation of psychiatric medications or other related issues. We strongly recommend that people consult a physician who is informed about the risks of psychiatric drugs and drug withdrawal. Those who cannot find a physician to assist them are advised to contact the nearest provincial or state mental health & addictions service — or the local Health department — and request a referral to a physician or counsellor who is very familiar with slow methods of tapering off prescription drugs (such as the Ashton protocol).

Doing so raises awareness in the health care system about the urgent need for appropriate assistance and support for prescription drug issues.


Contact VBSG:

If you require further information or would like to ask questions, please feel free to email us by clicking here.

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