Category Archives: Articles

A collection of articles from various sources on Prescription and OTC (over the counter) drugs.

The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Two years ago, Dr Chris van Tulleken discovered we are taking more prescription drugs than ever before – a billion prescriptions a year in the UK. He worked with a GP surgery to get patients to try drug-free alternatives – with amazing results.

Now he is on a new mission – to understand why we are giving British kids over three times more medication than we were 40 years ago. As a new dad, Chris has a very personal motivation to explore the reasons behind this explosion in medication. In the series he sets about finding alternatives which might be just as, or even more, effective than drugs. He tackles the shocking rise in teens taking anti-depressants by testing if wilderness therapy can work where the drugs are failing. He investigates why parents are giving out so many over-the-counter meds when they may not be always necessary, and he helps hyperactive kids replace their drugs with mindful meditation.

He also digs deeper into the forces driving the over-medication of UK children and asks whether the drug industry itself could be playing a part in the rise. In 2016 we spent a staggering £64 million on one brand of children’s liquid paracetamol. Chris meets a self-confessed fan who reveals she has bought over 25 bottles in less than two years! As a new dad, Chris doesn’t blame vulnerable parents. His research reveals a pharmaceutical industry that helps create a culture which, he believes, encourages parents to unnecessarily use liquid paracetamol. At a family fair in Bristol, Chris creates a surprising stunt to show Britain’s parents when not to give liquid paracetamol and make sure they don’t waste their hard-earned money giving children drugs they don’t need.

One of the other areas where medication rates have increased the most is treating kids’ behavioural problems – prescription meds for ADHD have increased by 800 per cent since 2000. These drugs do help some symptoms of ADHD in the short-term, but side effects can include loss of hunger, changes in personality and stunted growth. Chris joins a group of hyperactive children as they attempt the impossible – an intense course of stillness and mindful meditation as an alternative to the meds. As the families go on transformative and emotional journeys, they discover, with poignant results, that ADHD remedies do not always have to come in a pill.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4jjq3

Drugs and driving: the law

It’s illegal to drive if either:

  • you’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs
  • you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they haven’t affected your driving)

Legal drugs are prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.

The police can stop you and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests, eg asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine.

If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station.

You could be charged with a crime if the test shows you’ve taken drugs.

Prescription medicines

It’s illegal in England and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.

It’s an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you haven’t been prescribed them.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the following drugs:

  • amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

You can drive after taking these drugs if:

  • you’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional
  • they aren’t causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits

You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you haven’t been prescribed them.

The law doesn’t cover Northern Ireland and Scotland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.

Penalties for drug driving

If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get:

  • a minimum 1 year driving ban
  • an unlimited fine
  • up to 6 months in prison
  • a criminal record

Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Other problems you could face

A conviction for drug driving also means:

  • your car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

( source: https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law )

L’s Story

I would like to share my story, in order to highlight the harm that I believe is caused by SSRI and SNRI antidepressants.

In 2008 I suffered the horrendous experience of a depressive psychosis. It was diagnosed by psychiatry as “postnatal psychosis”. I now have a strong suspicion that my psychosis was caused by an SSRI and an SNRI.

My first daughter was born in April 2008. I took citalopram at a steady dose for about 2 years prior to the birth and throughout my pregnancy. In the days after she was born, I read that sertraline was the safest SSRI to take while breastfeeding. I asked the GP about it and she changed me from citalopram to sertraline. In the following weeks I became very depressed. I was changed back to citalopram and the dose was increased. In the weeks following this I became suicidally depressed and developed a florid depressive psychosis. I made several suicide attempts and was sectioned. I continued on citalopram and olanzapine was added. I did not respond quickly to the meds so was given ECT. I had a fairly rapid improvement following ECT and was allowed home. However, after a few months my depressive psychosis returned. I was changed to venlafaxine and quetiapine and after 3 months the depressive psychosis lifted and I remained well until two years after the birth of my second daughter in 2012. I was advised to take quetiapine for some months after this birth. I remained well for 2 years, however, when no longer on quetiapine, I had another episode of depressive psychosis. I remained on venlafaxine but this time quetiapine was not effective. My antipsychotic was changed to amisulpride and after 3 months I recovered. I have remained on a low dose of amisulpride and have not experienced psychosis since then. I now wonder about the possibility that I have a sensitivity to SSRIs/SNRIs and that my episodes of psychosis were actually caused by citalopram/venlafaxine and that the psychosis was only subdued by the addition of an antipsychotic.

I was told on a number of occasions by the psychiatry team that my illness was “atypical”. I do not remember any of the psychiatry team ever mentioning the possibility that my depressive psychosis may have been caused by the SSRI or SNRI – it was always attributed to an underlying illness – “postnatal psychosis” or “psychotic depression”. This has led me to wonder how many other cases of worsened depression and psychosis may be influenced by these drugs, which is why I want to highlight the issue. If psychiatry is not considering this possibility, this potential cause will not be being reported and it could be going unnoticed, meaning it is possible that, like me, some people are advised to continue on the drugs that precipitated their illness in the first place, with further drugs being added to counteract the negative effects of the SSRI/SNRI.

I would also like to highlight the problems I have had attempting to withdraw from venlafaxine. In discussion with my psychiatrist, I decided to come off venlafaxine in 2015, having been well for over 2 years. My psychiatrist recommended a taper which I now believe was way too fast – over several weeks. The withdrawal during those weeks was a truly awful experience. For the whole period of withdrawal and several weeks afterwards, I felt like I had a severe bout of the flu and a terrible hangover. I had electric shock sensations in my head. It felt as if my brain was being constantly irritated by a chemical. I felt agitated and intensely irritable. I felt an intense burning sensation in my head, spine and oesophagus. My body ached all over. I had abdominal pain. I lost my senses of taste and smell. Then approximately 3 months after stopping venlafaxine, I became depressed. I completely lost my appetite and felt a physical sensation of my body and mind being an empty shell, unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was admitted to a psychiatric unit. My bowel stopped working. I was put back on venlafaxine and after approximately 4 months I fairly suddenly started to feel better again. The physical symptoms disappeared. The psychiatry team were convinced the whole episode was caused by my underlying illness – “psychotic depression”, because my depression could not be controlled without venlafaxine. However, I strongly suspect that what I experienced was a very bad case of withdrawal from venlafaxine.

Recently I decided I would like to try to withdraw from venlafaxine again, but this time much, much more slowly. I found a Facebook group dedicated to venlafaxine withdrawal. It has approximately 3800 members. Time and time again people report that they were not warned about the difficulties that many people have withdrawing from venlafaxine – indeed most medical professionals seem completely unaware of the problem that so many of us experience. The recommended taper advised in the group is a maximum of 10% of the dose at a time, with a hold of at least 30 days or until all withdrawal symptoms have resolved, before tapering again. For many of us, particularly those of us who have been taking it for a number of years, it would seem that to have the best chance of getting off venlafaxine and staying well we must reduce the dose very gradually over years. There are members of the group who, like me, came off much more quickly on the advice of their psychiatrist/GP, did not reinstate the drug quickly enough and who have suffered a protracted withdrawal over years, with a whole host of symptoms. I can’t help but feel that if there could be a much greater understanding of antidepressant withdrawal amongst medical professionals, including revised guidelines for withdrawal in the community, then more of us would receive the support we need to come off venlafaxine and other psychiatric drugs, rather than suffering intense withdrawal symptoms and being told that they are nothing to do with withdrawal but are the return of our original illness.

I find it very interesting in relation to my suspicion that I experienced SSRI induced psychosis that, since reducing my venlafaxine dose from 150mg to 100mg, my thoughts seem less distorted and obsessive, I have less anxiety and my thinking is much clearer.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

L… G….

NHS ‘creating drug addicts’ as figures show surge in prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers

he number of prescriptions for powerful painkillers in England has nearly doubled in 10 years, it has been reported.

The surge in people taking opioids such as morphine has prompted doctors to warn that people are becoming addicted in greater numbers.

The family of drugs also includes codeine, tramadol and fentanyl, which is many times stronger.

According to the BBC, some 28.3 million opioids were prescribed by GPs in 2017, the equivalent of 2,700 packs an hour.

The figure is around 10 million more than the number of opioid prescriptions in 2007.

Opioids are prescribed to treat severe pain only after consultation with a GP or a pain specialist.

Full article – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/16/nhs-creating-drug-addicts-figures-show-surge-prescriptions-powerful/

1 in 7

On the 9th May 2018 Michelle Ballantyne, MSP, raised the important issue of antidepressant overuse in the Scottish Parliament:

This was the first part of the response made by the Minister for Mental Health:

As an NHS doctor who has worked as a psychiatrist  in Scotland for over 25 years I am not reassured by this response by the Minister for Mental Health. I have highlighted three aspects of this response which I wish to briefly consider:

CLINICAL DECISION:
I agree that prescribing should follow the principles of  informed consent and shared decision making.  However informed consent will not be possible if the information that doctors base prescribing on follows marketing and promotion rather than independent, and more objective, continuing medical education.  The Scottish Government has consulted the public on the need for mandatory declarations of financial competing interests for doctors and academics in an open, central register. The public made it clear that this was what they felt was necessary. More than two years on from this consultation and there is no such system ensuring the transparency that is necessary for informed decision making between clinician and patient.

GOOD EVIDENCE:
Where is the “Good Evidence” to support the prescribing of antidepressants to 1 in 7 Scots, a significant proportion of whom are taking antidepressants long term or indefinitely? I have, like others, asked the Scottish Government to provide this “good evidence” but have been provided with no evidence to support such mass prescribing of  long term antidepressants.

APPROPRIATELY:
Currently there is a petition being considered by the Scottish Parliament in relation to potential problems with prescribed medications. This has highlighted that an important aspect which should determine the “appropriateness” of prescribing, namely the experience of people who are taking medications, has not been given the weight that it should.

Full Article

Antidepressants (Overuse)

Xanax WARNING: New prescription drugs craze is a deadly game of roulette

THE terrifying lottery facing thrill-seeking teenagers who buy the prescription drug Xanax online is today exposed by the Daily Express. Our investigation highlights the potentially deadly risk youngsters face when trying to obtain the highly addictive anti-anxiety medication for recreational use.

One site offering Xanax for sale in fact supplied us with Tramadol, an equally controversial opiate painkiller linked to hundreds of deaths.

MP Bambos Charalambous said: “These young people don’t know what they are putting into their bodies. They have no control at all.”

Rick Bradley, of the anti-abuse charity Addaction, said: “Purchases are either on the clean [legitimate] or the dark web or on the street. “The clean web is safer because it will be dispensed with information which might enable the user to take the drug more safely.”

Mr Bradley, who also sits on a new substances watchdog for Public Health England, added: “But that doesn’t make it safe at all.”

 

Desperate for help: prescription drug addicts turn to the web

Lack of government-funded services means growing numbers have nowhere else to turn.

Thousands of people dependent on prescription drugs are desperately turning to online help groups and calling up charity helplines because of a lack of government-funded services.

A growing number of people struggling with addiction to painkillers, benzodiazepines and antidepressants are guiding each other through the process of withdrawal on Facebook groups and websites. They say they have nowhere else to turn.

The Guardian has also heard that people are resorting to calling up the Samaritans helpline, set up for those needing emotional support.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/feb/06/desperate-for-help-prescription-drug-addicts-turn-to-the-web

Senedd debate 1st May 2018

P.A.S.T. have a seat at the Senedd debate on  “Prescription drug dependence and withdrawal – recognition and support”.

We will have an opportunity to highlight the lack of support for problematic useage and addiction..

If any of our members have any questions or concerns that they would like raised – please contact us by email as soon as possible for us to bring these to the table.

Email – senedd.debate@past.wales

Thank you. Aled.

Link to the debate outline and notation –

http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=19952&Opt=3