Can you imagine anyone lying alone in pain not just for a day, or weeks or months, but rather for years at a time, who does not have recourse to doctors or medicines – because she or he knows they caused the problem in the first place? This is the case with a relative of mine whose doctor took him off prescribed drugs abruptly three years ago.
My relative, in common with millions of other sufferers, endures a host of symptoms which leave him mostly housebound with no quality of life. These include burning nerve pain, piercing tinnitus, agoraphobia, sensory distortions, memory and concentration problems, muscle spasms and twitches.
People in withdrawal from these drugs can get very, very sick and their condition causes untold distress, especially to them and their immediate families. Yet there are almost no NHS services for them.
Some sufferers have tried to get compensation from their doctors through the courts by issuing actions for clinical negligence, but it is a slow process. And since a legal case can hinge on whether or not it was reasonable for the doctor to continue prescribing the drug, doctors often try to hide behind the fact that prescribing outside the guidelines is common practice – even when it is demonstrated to have caused harm.
I have spent most of the past three years trying to convince the Department of Health that this is a serious problem.
It is the mindset of the NHS that needs to change – the attitude that illegal drugs are a threat to society whereas legal ones are only a threat to individuals. And yet individuals become addicted through the co-operation and negligence of their doctors and the pressure of pharmaceutical companies, and repeat prescriptions of these drugs are going up, not down.