Benzodiazepine Information Coalition is a non-profit organization that advocates for greater understanding of the potentially devastating effects of commonly prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin, as well as prevention of patient injury through medical recognition, informed consent, and education.
We seek to break the stigma and raise awareness around prescribed benzodiazepine injury, provide a voice to the patients who are suffering, and facilitate research and access to competent, evidence-based medical care for those impacted by benzodiazepine induced disability.
We are a group of patients and medical professionals who believe the over-prescription of benzodiazepines without proper warning has resulted in a growing national epidemic of benzodiazepine injury. While we understand and respect the value of these drugs when used appropriately, deep and widespread ignorance of their risks on the part of patients and prescribers has caused enormous and preventable suffering. Because benzodiazepine-injury often does not fit common preconceptions about “side effects,” its victims all too often suffer for years in silence, shame, and confusion.
Our advocacy is informed by our members’ personal experience, the scientific literature, and input from an advisory board comprised of physicians and other medical and mental health professionals.
In the summer of 2016, members of the benzodiazepine-impacted community and allied medical professionals formed the Coalition as a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to advocating awareness and reform around the dangers of benzodiazepines. They were moved to action by years of watching benzodiazepine-injury support groups grow in membership by the thousands without any corresponding increase in attention from the public or medical community. As of January 2017, memberships across online benzodiazepine support groups totaled more than 40,000 and climbing. With 94 million benzodiazepine prescriptions written every year in the U.S. alone, we expect this crisis to only deepen unless action is taken.
Those suffering from a benzodiazepine induced disability lack adequate support as they struggle to understand the cause of their suffering and find treatment. They are told the problem doesn’t exist, that it is “all in their head”, and are given irrelevant tests resulting in misdiagnosis. Even when the cause of the injury is discovered, medical professionals often employ a classic “addiction” model that is inappropriate, and often disabling, for the more common problem of benzodiazepine dependence resulting from prescribed usage under medical supervision. Patients should not be forced to undergo the most deadly drug withdrawal known to science based on information gathered from the internet. Yet, since accurate information is not provided by most prescribers, websites devoted to benzodiazepine withdrawal often perform a life-saving function. Because some patients have little-to-no trouble taking benzodiazepines or coming off of them, the medical community assumes this experience is, or should be, the norm. We believe the responsible response is more research into the extremely variant impacts these drugs have on different people. A deficit of information has allowed the benzodiazepine epidemic to spread for decades, and urgently requires redress.
As we work to raise awareness of the risks of these drugs, we also seek to end the silence and stigma that has surrounded benzodiazepine induced disability for more than half a century. We seek change by educating and partnering with doctors, mental health providers, journalists, lawmakers, researchers, the benzodiazepine-impacted community, and society at large. Our deep personal understanding of the medical and social needs of the benzodiazepine impacted community informs all of our advocacy, from education and outreach, to lobbying for more research and the passage of informed consent laws that equip doctors and their patients with knowledge about the risks of using these drugs in a non-emergency context. Our work will continue until benzodiazepines are at the forefront of the national healthcare conversation; until patients are given adequate informed consent; until the rate of injury is significantly lowered; and until those cases that remain are understood and treated appropriately.