I have a filing cabinet which is packed with scientific papers and medical journal articles showing the dangers of the benzodiazepines. Many of these articles, which have been published in the 1970s and the 1980s, describe specific problems associated with the drugs. There were, for example, papers published years ago showing that the benzodiazepines can cause anxiety, can cause depression, can cause sleeplessness, can make patients become aggressive, can cause foetal abnormalities when taken by pregnant women, can make patients so drowsy that they are unsafe to drive motor cars or operate machinery and can cause a huge number of uncomfortable, unpleasant or dangerous side effects. I have long been a campaigner against tobacco but when I wrote Life Without Tranquillisers in the 1980s I wrote that: ‘I think that doctors would serve some patients better if they gave them prescriptions for filter cigarettes rather than benzodiazepines’. The book became a Sunday Times bestseller within days.
There isn’t room here to describe all the side effects and problems associated with the benzodiazepines. So I am going to concentrate on the evidence showing that these drugs are addictive.
Remember, all the quotes which follow are taken from magazines and popular medical newspapers which are widely read by doctors.
The technical and specialist journals have for years been full of articles about the benzodiazepines. Psychiatrists, therefore, have absolutely no excuse for not knowing about the dangers associated with these drugs. Back in 1975, for example, the International Journal of the Addictions carried a major paper entitled ‘Misuse and Abuse of Diazepam: An increasingly Common Medical Problem.
Any psychiatrist or hospital specialist who has not been aware of this hazard is guilty of gross incompetence and dangerous ignorance.