Petition P-05-784 In August 2017, Stevie Lewis, from South Wales submitted a petition to the Welsh Assembly. It was referred to the Petitions Committee in December of the same year, having collected 213 signatures.
The petition was set up to raise awareness of the plight of individuals in Wales who are affected by dependence on and withdrawal from prescribed antidepressants (and other medications). ‘Prescription drug dependence’ refers specifically to the situation where, having taken their medication exactly as prescribed by their doctor, patients find they are unable to stop because of the debilitating withdrawal effects. Patients need formal acknowledgement, support and guidance to help them through their withdrawal journey and this currently does not exist. As a result of the side effects, tolerance effects and withdrawal effects of these medications not being medically recognised for what they are, when patients develop these related effects or symptoms they are often prescribed other medicines and then polypharmacy complicates the problems further. Affected patients are finding themselves with vague diagnoses such as ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ or ‘functional/ somatic system disorders’. These are essentially psychiatric diagnoses attributing various debilitating and disabling physical symptoms to patients’ own anxiety, beliefs etc. This has the effect of discounting, disempowering and demoralising these patients still further. (the above was taken from the petition text)
Stevie ( the petitioner) described four fundamental problems which make the actions, called for in the petition, necessary :- . lack of willingness to admit that ADs specifically are problematic, perhaps as a result of a lack of available alternatives for doctors and patients; . reluctance to listen to the concerns of patients and acknowledge dependence or withdrawal symptoms; . lack of available services, even when dependence or withdrawal is recognised, and an inappropriate reliance on drug misuse services; . absence of formal, consistent advice on drug tapering.
Written responses of personal experiences of problems of this nature were requested from anyone in Wales. Thirteen written responses were received. The combined experiences related, make for a powerful testimony of the impact of these issues on people’s lives. They can be read at :- www.senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s77369/Personal%20Experiences.pdf. ( You will find that mine is one of them).
Professor David Healy, based in Bangor, North Wales, told the Committee that “10% of the population of Wales takes an antidepressant on prescription. Of those, between 80% and 90% are on treatment for more than a year – many for over a decade . When the latest ADs were introduced around 1990, the recommendation was that they would be used for 3 to 6 months”.
Having considered the entirety of the evidence received, in June 2018 the Committee wrote a detailed letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services who had taken over responsibility for this area of policy. Following receipt of his response, the Committee agreed to produce this report on its consideration of the petition.
An e-copy of the document (Petition P-05-784) can be found on the national Assembly website: www.assembly.wales/seneddPetitions. Hard copies are available from Petitions Committee, National Assembly for Wales , Cardiff Bay. CF99 1NA.
The whole document is, obviously, far more detailed than the above but I hope that you will have read enough to feel that Stevie made a fine job of drawing attention to the fact that ADs are troublesome for many. Below you will see illustrations which Stevie uses to accompany her talk about the need for such a petition and her personal reasons for working on it. We are all extremely grateful to her for all the work she has done and also to the Petitions Committee for believing our accounts of the reality of the problems suffered.
Stevie’s message through these illustrated posters is quite straightforward :- when the drugs work for a person, everyone praises the drug; However, when the drugs do NOT work as expected for a person, suddenly, the spotlight is on the person – that something is ‘odd’ about that person, that there is something ‘disordered’ in their personality, that their ‘illness’ has increased – never a thought given to the fact that maybe the drugs themselves have worked ‘in reverse’.
I would also like to add that the people of Scotland, under the guidance of Marion Brown, have also been working along the same lines. In fact, they were first to enter the race! It was reading about Marion’s work that first gave Stevie the idea of a petition. Therefore, we owe our gratitude to Marion and the people of Scotland for their inspiration.
(PLEASE NOTE !!!! – we have been receiving many encouraging comments which have been shown to us as ‘spam’. Please use our comment box if you wish to compliment or criticise anything that we have to say here! We can then enter into dialogue with you. Thank you.)
Again we’ve encountered messages captured by the WordPress Honeypot and put as spam in our comments spam area. We are reluctant to accept them although they sound genuine. However, that is where we found Stevie’s comment (see below). Since we recognise her details, we were willing to accept as ‘not spam’. If you comment in the box below a post, it comes directly to my emails. If you don’t want your comment/request to appear here please let me know in your comment and I can keep it out. Hope all of that makes sense and good luck! Mary