Addicted To Prescription Drugs
WOMAN'S OWN|November 04, 2019
One in four people in England – that’s nearly 12 million – are taking ‘addictive’ prescription medicines. Miranda Levy reveals how her habit got out of control
Miranda Levy

Winter 2015, I was trying to come off tranquillisers, and thought that watching the bland One Direction: This Is Us, would help. My family were away, so it was the ideal time. The shaking and sweating I had done before. And the nausea. But I wasn’t prepared for the agony that overwhelmed me and had me curled up in a ball on the floor by the time the final credits rolled.

Slippery slope

My problems started in July 2010, when I learned my husband wanted to call time on our 13-year relationship.I was distressed and worried – overnight, I stopped sleeping. I’d had insomnia years earlier, but this time I had school-age children and a senior job in journalism.

After a couple of sleepless nights, I saw my GP, who dashed off a prescription for temazepam, an old-fashioned sleeping pill. It didn’t work. Within a month, I was signed off work; within two, I found myself in the office of an NHS psychiatrist. This gently spoken consultant seemed sympathetic to my plight. By then, I hadn’t slept for about eight weeks and was insane with exhaustion. I was begging him for something – anything – to get me some sleep. He prescribed me something called clonazepam. Then an antidepressant called trazodone joined the party.

All drugs have side-effects, but the particular ‘villain’ here was the clonazepam, which belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines (benzos for short). Benzos have a bad rap because of their potential for swift dependency, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

At the start, clonazepam helped me a lot. I slept a bit – only in short bursts, but at least I had some periods of unconsciousness. As well as a little insulation against an incredibly stressful domestic situation.

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