'Lucy Fernandes, a 31-year-old who lives in London, is one of countless thousands of Britons who’ve become dependent on their prescription medicines through no fault of their own.
Lucy became trapped on three drugs prescribed to her for severe anxiety. She started taking them in 2009 after seeing a psychiatrist because she was breaking down under the pressure of doing a master’s in Renaissance art history.
‘Looking back, I realise now that I was too young to have taken on such a huge challenge,’ she says. ‘I’d begun the master’s straight after finishing university.’
She was prescribed the benzodiazepine tranquillisers diazepam (formerly known as Valium) and clonazepam, plus lamotrigine, an anti-convulsant drug that is used as a mood stabiliser.
But her body developed an increasing tolerance to the drugs and she needed greater doses. However, the longer she was taking the pills, the worse the side-effects became. ‘The mood stabiliser disrupted my sleep as it made me more alert at night, while the benzodiazepines made me withdrawn,’ she says.
‘I was just not myself. Things were fuzzy. It was hard for me to understand what was going on.’
At the end of 2014, the side-effects were so debilitating that Lucy decided to stop taking her medication. But the withdrawal only made her feel worse and she had to give up her job as a gallery shop assistant and move back home.
Meanwhile, the effects of withdrawing from the drugs worsened so that for months she didn’t sleep at all.
Lucy has since managed to overcome her dependency — thanks to one of the tiny handful of organisations that offer help to patients hooked on their prescription pills.
But the NHS has now said it will no longer fund that service, leaving others with nowhere to turn for help.'
Read more: Now let's give anxiety pill addicts the help they need: Service to assist those dependent on the drugs will no longer be funded by the NHS
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16 August 2018
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