Monday, 17 September 2007


I bolted for the weekend, and have come back to even more responses to Untitled. Thank you, everybody.

The point was raised in the comments that there are comprehensive packages of support out there for withdrawal from illegal drugs such as heroin.
Mary wondered if similar services are in place for prescription junkies (my phrase) like myself.

No, nothing structured or intensive that's for sure. And because I am on prescription medication, I don't qualify for support from my local drug action team, who concentrate their efforts on illegal substance misuse. But I don't hold that against people using or withdrawing from heroin or other drugs. I started writing all this in the comments box but it turned into a post. I don't know how to do links in comments boxes for one thing... I also think it's worth further thought.

All addictions are tricky to treat, and often expensive. I wouldn't begrudge anyone support just because what they've taken is illegal, though it could be viewed as tempting for me to do so. It would be too easy, and wrong I feel, to resent the emphasis on treating users of recreational or illegal drugs. Yes more money goes into those treatment programmes than the sort that doesn't even exist for me, but then my prescription...well it's so outdated really, isn't it? And mental health services just keep on suffering further cutbacks. I will think more deeply on this but can only presume that in the eyes of the Government, it all comes down to that old chestnut 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'.

Heroin addicts (like 'they' all belong under one label...bit like 'prescription junkies') are commonly perceived as the criminal underclass by your average voter. I, being on prescription drugs, don't need to commit any crimes because of my addictions. I just phone the chemist, who delivers it all to my door. So perhaps in not being a perceived threat (unless I turn into one of those 'psychos') I am not so voter-friendly to treat.

I will be patching together my own support programme for my withdrawal from prescription drugs. It will more than likely involve No Panic (a telephone counselling and support service for people with anxiety disorders and those going through tranquilliser withdrawal), the solid and expert recommended by Miss Vertigo which seems to have more stuff on its site than I was aware (result MV!), and The Samaritans for very bad days.

I have more or less given up on the mental health team who contributed to all this. A local centre has just been shut down. Waiting lists are horrendous. People I know working in health services in my area are ashamed. Things are better 20 miles down the road under a different trust, so if I get really desperate I can always move house (again).

Today I found out my psychiatrist has left, which is why my dosage of Zopiclone was suddenly halved over the weekend when I got my latest prescription. I found out after writing Untitled. It kind of made me smile. I now have to explain to Mr Shiny Shoes new shrink why halving the dose all of a sudden is NOT a good idea for someone with my medical profile and please could we do some research together, and talk about it in a few weeks? I'm meeting him on Thursday. He's at least coming to the house, although you tend to find home visits are shorter (pushed for time). Ten minutes or so to explain my disabilities and complex malmetabolising of medication. Can't wait. But at least I get the opportunity to discuss withdrawal, which is what I was building to doing by booking an appointment with my GP...sometime. I do feel that rather than this whole thing being taken seriously by one expert, I am somewhat scrabbling about for a way forward.

It's too expensive a process to get someone off prescription drugs - and that's despite valium being one of the cheapest drugs a doctor can prescribe. Cheap and nasty.


Tayi said...

Hello. I wanted to tell you, I've started reading your blog. It's lovely. I have a tendency to lurk and not leave comments because I never know what to say, but I thought I would leave at least one so you would know that someone is reading.

Miss Vertigo said...

Hello, Seahorse,

"I will be patching together my own support programme for my withdrawal from prescription drugs"

This really is the way to go, not least because understanding of this issue by the medical profession is so woefully inadequate; they tend to treat it like heroin withdrawal, if you like - 'once the drug's out of your system then that's it'. Not so. If you can, try and print off the Ashton Manual and give this to your doctors; the information in it will help. It's very important that your doctors allow you to go at the slow pace stated within. If you have problems with this, when you get to, ask them about their list of 'benzo-wise' doctors. This was something being put together when I was there, and hopefully should turn up something in your area.

I'm so glad you've decided to give a go. Most importantly, they have the knowledge and expertise to help you withdraw *safely*. Assuming it still works the same way, when you first get there, they'll keep you in a sort of 'holding area' of the forum while working out a taper plan for you before you get access to the rest of the forum and the support within. This sounds odd, but it gives the admins and mods a chance to familiarise themselves with your situation and give you the best possible help. Added to that, the emotional support you'll get there is second to none. Everyone there has been through it, and sometimes just getting reassurance that what you're experiencing is normal for w/d can be worth its weight in gold.

It made me angry, and sad to the point of feeling as if I was going to well up, to read that your dose was halved like that by ignorance and I'm sorry you were put in that position. Too much of this goes on, and I hope it didn't affect you too badly.

Thanks for stopping by at my place, too, and if I can help in any way then please do stop by again and let me know.


seahorse said...

Tayi: Hi and welcome. It can be hard to know what to put in a comment I know, but it's good that you've stopped by and you are welcome any time comments or not.

Miss V: I think a plan will come together this way far better than under mental health services. I received half the month's dose for the sleeping pill, haven't cut it down so if he refuses to put it up again I run out completely next week. That would be dangerous. I'm sure he doesn't want to be sued :)
Thanks so much for your support. I'm registering with today. I don't know if they will be able to help me, because of the nature and extent of my disability, but I think trying to get help is a start.

Mary said...

Best of luck with the new medicobod.

As for expense and crime... S gets incapacity benefit and DLA high rate care/low rate mobility, a total of about £170 each week from central government. This mostly goes to her dealer, as local government pays her housing and council tax (about £100 a week) and religious and voluntary groups keep her fed and clothed.

This means that S is not obliged to commit crime (other than the purchase of heroin) to have a comfortable lifestyle.

I'm not convinced this is, as you put it, a "voter-friendly" approach. She herself thinks it's slightly messed-up, although of course she's not about to refuse free money.

seahorse said...

Mary: I think the main thing is that S is treated, and waiting 9 months for her programme to start is only prolonging the situation you outline above.
No, what you describe may not be as 'voter-friendly', and I'm sure many a person would turn purple in the face and mutter about their taxes...
But if she is incapacitated because of her addiction and unable to work she is entitled to those benefits. The issue of what being on benefits or dependent on charities does to your self-esteem is probably worth another post. But for her, all that will be addressed in her treatment programme. If she is spending a large proportion of her benefits on heroin it only underlines the fact that she needs treatment.
And the fact remains that Drug Action Teams receive a lot of funding to help people off illegal drugs, and that is the funding I see as 'voter friendly'. The statistical link between drug addiction and opportunistic crime is an oft-trumpeted one in the tabloids, and so the Government prioritises the 'causes of crime' which includes getting people into rehab.
The spending disparity I'm on about lies in the fact that there are no structured services in place for those seeking intensive support for withdrawal from prescription drugs.
I hope S gets through her treatment and successfully withdraws from heroin. Treat the addiction and the person will emerge.