At the start of this week I had my long-awaited meeting with my psychiatrist , the appointment went ok though it was clear that the doctor had a lot of learning to do still on dissociative disorders? One of the key decisions we made was to recommence the reduction of my benzodiazepines this is no easy task especially given the length of time the medical profession has prescribed these drugs.
Today such drugs are prescribed for short-term use, in fact the guidelines from the Royal college of Psychiatrists state that they should be taken for up to 4 weeks and no longer. They also state that 40% of those who take them every day for more than 6 weeks will become addicted.
The harsh reality is that whilst these drugs are intended for short-term use some professionals seem content to prescribe them for long-term use. Well that was my case and now we are dealing with the difficulties of long-term use.
My encounter with Benzodiazepines began when I was still a child, back in the seventies I guess it wasn’t unusual to prescribe these drugs longer term. If my medical records are correct I was just 11 when I began taking these kind of drugs, and thus I began taking them on and off until my 30’s. I was always able to stop and manage them quite well and my life wasn’t affected by them in the way it has since.
But in 2004 I was prescribed the drug again and I have continued to take it ever since, initially like most psychiatric drugs the doses kept creeping up and at one point I was taking over 40mg each and every day. Looking back I don’t know how I manged to function, especially with all the other psychiatric medication that was pumped into me notably during my hospital stays. I can recall taking 2 types of benzodiazepines at one point alongside 2 kinds of anti-psychotic medication, a mood stabiliser, sleeping pill and an anti-depressant. Yet somehow I managed to walk around, well truth be known I probably shuffled along such were the side swiping mind controlling impacts of these medications.
Today I am left on much less medication and I have tried to reduce and stop taking the medication one by one and so now today we are trying to reduce the benzodiazepine. After 10 years of continual use it has a huge impact physically upon my body, and we were initially on a high dose, so from 40mg a day we have now got down to 16mg. But then last year with no therapy we decided along with our medical team it was best to halt the reduction until we were back in therapy, the last thing any of me want is to revert back to self harming or needing hospital admissions.
But we had learnt that the side effects were slowly reducing and we no longer had such dramatic reactions to lowering the dosage. Now we are back in therapy it’s the right time to restart this battle to come off this drug, but we are faced with a slow reduction of between 1 and 2 mg every month. We are conscious that there are serious risks to withdrawing too quickly and that for some people they haven’t been able to stop taking the drugs all together such has been the impact of taking these drugs contrary to the new guidelines.
I am happy with this new step, we have been the proactive voice in ensuring the reductions of our medication actually happened, having worked hard to convince professionals we can do this reduction and deal with the issues that come from such changes I am conscious that it’s important we do this right.
Whilst the professionals seem happy to try this, for me I think it’s more important, you see I want to win this battle and stop taking these drugs that for the past decade have impacted my life. Perhaps this drug means the most because of the age I originally started taking it, I’m not sure, yet somehow it is a tie to my past I want to see gone for good.
I think what concerns me now is that even now I still face a possible 16 months of further reductions, of this drug still being in my system, and even after this is gone I still have another psychiatric medication to dispense with.
Looking back it’s as if in hospital psychiatrists seemed hell-bent on prescribing more and more medication, did it work well honestly I don’t think so. My issues are trauma related and the only treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder is long-term therapy. Why then do doctors focus on a medical model for conditions that require a psychological intervention, why force patients to be controlled by medications, which when all is said and done just numb the mind and push the patient into a drug controlled stupor.
Will this dominance of the medical model and dependency on drugs still be happening today, you bet it is, perhaps they use benzodiazepines to a lesser degree but other drugs have taken their place. Perhaps one day we will see psychological interventions being taken more seriously and provided more easily, long-term therapy costs money but the results long-term are worth it. I bet it might actually be cheaper than a life time of drug dependency handed out by psychiatrists focused on the medical model.
Now for some psychiatric conditions medication may be needed I accept that, yet for individuals like me what was best for me was long-term psychological intervention. I hope lessons will be learnt and that those who follow me trying to access care and support are not placed on the journey I have had to endure in order to access the right care and treatment they need.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014