JC founded Benzodiazepine Information Coalition in 2016 after sustaining a multi year injury from prescription Ativan. Shocked with the widespread lack of knowledge within the medical community she decided to organize the injured and professionals together to form a coalition to instigate awareness and change. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida.
Christy Huff, MD, FACC is a board-certified cardiologist who resides in Fort Worth, Texas. She attended medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas where she graduated Alpha Omega Alpha in 2001. She completed an internal medicine residency at Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. Her cardiology training was completed at U.T. Southwestern in 2008, with a focus in advanced cardiovascular imaging and noninvasive cardiology. She was in private practice as a cardiologist in Fort Worth from 2008-2011. Following the birth of her child, she made the decision to become a stay at home mom.
Dr. Huff is currently experiencing benzodiazepine withdrawal firsthand after she was prescribed Xanax for insomnia related to a major health crisis in 2015. After developing concerning symptoms and receiving no answers from her primary care doctor and a prominent neurologist, she began to research benzodiazepines and discovered her symptoms were consistent with benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. With the help of a local psychiatrist, she is slowly tapering off benzodiazepines using Valium. Christy’s personal experience has led her to realize the dangers of these drugs and the severity of the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, neither of which were emphasized during her medical training. She is an advocate of better education of physicans regarding the dangers of benzodiazepines and how to safely taper patients off these drugs, and stronger regulation of the prescribing of benzodiazopines.
Stephen is an attorney residing in Houston, Texas, who worked in the oil and gas industry. In 2013 he was prescribed Klonopin for trouble sleeping. Within 3 weeks of being on the drug, he developed new symptoms, including emotional blunting and daytime sedation. He was fortunate to locate a benzodiazepine aware physician who began assisting him with his taper off of Klonopin. Stephen was made aware of the benzodiazepine initiative in Massachusetts and became interested in raising awareness of the same in Texas. Stephen joined Benzodiazepine Information Coalition as a director in September, 2016.
Kirk Bolas, RPh, PharmD is a California Licensed Pharmacist with 25 years in multiple practice areas that include both Retail Chain and Independent Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, Long Term Care Pharmacy and both Consultation and Investigation of Prescription Drug Billing Fraud, Waste and Abuse by bad actors in the third party prescription claims process.
Over the years he recommended and dispensed numerous prescription orders for the Benzodiazepine Class of drugs with the status quo understanding that while they did carry a moderate addiction and abuse liability, that as a class, they were both very safe and very effective for treating a plethora of diagnoses. He noticed that some appeared to be experiencing odd and/or severe adverse effects from this class of drugs. In some cases, some desperately stating that they wanted to taper off Benzodiazepines, some of these people seemed unable to do so without suffering the most debilitating withdrawal syndrome symptoms. The others that were suffering from the odd constellation of adverse effects told him that it all started shortly after the initiation of Benzodiazepine therapy. In the early days, he dismissed this relatively few number of people to being addicts or manifesting some aspects of a mental illness. As time passed and he heard more of these kinds of reports, either first hand or from colleagues, he began to wonder if there were indeed something to this.
He researched and met many afflicted with this problem, and decided he wanted to help. He joins Benzodiazepine Information Coalition’s efforts because he believes that there is significant degree of ignorance regarding the deleterious effects for a small but substantial subset of people treated with Benzodiazepines and that this class of drugs is not as safe as generally believed. The general health care provider community consisting of prescribers, pharmacists and nurses share the burden by not becoming educated to what these drugs do to certain people and the grossly unethical pejorative labeling that results for a lack of knowledge.
Dr. A. J. Reid Finlayson joined Vanderbilt University’s Faculty and Physician Wellness Program as Medical Director in June 2016 and has been a member of Vanderbilt faculty since 2001. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Assessment Program for Professionals.
Daniel F. Kripke, M.D. is a licensed physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. He also has done research with the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center. Dr. Kripke was elected a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, co-authored hundreds of medical articles and has given invited lectures in 18 countries. In 1973, Dr. Kripke established one of the first sleep clinics in the United States. He treated patients with sleep disorders until retirement from his clinical practice at age 70. Dr. Kripke continues to be active as a researcher and as an advocate for raising awareness of the dangers associated with sleeping pills, particularly hypnotic drugs.
Dr. Kripke’s research has shown that hypnotic drugs, especially certain benzodiazepines and Z drugs with similar actions on the brain, have the potential to cause infection, depression, and are associated with increased risk of death and cancer. Dr. Kripke’s desire in joining Benzodiazepine Information Coalition is to inform the public about the grave risks of these drugs.
Dr. Miller’s background includes mental health, public health, clinical treatment, teaching and administration. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery, as well as his Masters in Public Health from the University of Tennessee. In his career, he has worked as a dentist for the physically and mentally handicapped, then became a clinical director, chief of staff and on the executive committee for Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. He also was an instructor at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Dr. Miller joins Benzodiazepine Information Coalition’s board because he believes benzodiazepines have the potential to cause substantial harm and devastation to one’s entire life. Believing that benzodiazepines were safe, through the information he was provided in continuing education from pharmaceutical representatives in his own career, he himself was on a benzodiazepine as prescribed. His own health was devastated by the drug. He wants to ensure consumers of benzodiazepines are able to obtain the support and assistance they need if ever faced with a troublesome withdrawal and/or go on to suffer the consequences resulting from developing benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.
Chris Paige, LCSW has been a licensed therapist for over 20 years. He received his Bachelor’s of Arts from Southern Methodist University in 1988 and completed his Master’s of Social Work from Barry University in 1993. He has practiced in a variety of settings including hospitals, schools, and foster homes and has taught at the undergraduate and graduate level. He has presented papers at national and international conferences and appeared on Dateline NBC for his work with children of divorce. He has been in private practice since 1998 and provides trauma resolution coaching to clients across the nation.
Mr. Paige therapeutic philosophy is that normal response to trauma are often treated as disorders. He feels that the lack of understanding in the mental health system of the effects of trauma leads to inappropriate stigmatizing diagnoses and, subsequently, the overuse of psychiatric medication. Mr. Paige successfully utilizes a combination of trauma informed techniques including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) in his patients. He believes that effective psychotherapy can significantly reduce an individual’s reliance on anxiety medications like benzodiazepines, as well as many other drugs, and dramatically improve mental and physical health.
Catherine M. Pittman, Ph.D., HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist, and psychology professor at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. As a practicing clinical psychologist for over 25 years, she most frequently provides therapy to those coping with depression and anxiety-based disorders, including OCD and PTSD. She also is experienced in neuropsychological rehabilitation with individuals who have experienced brain injuries or strokes. Dr. Pittman has conducted research in both fear conditioning and neuropsychology, preparing her well to understand both human and animal models elucidating the neurology of fear and anxiety. Her research has also explored the detrimental effects of benzodiazepines in treatment of anxiety and other disorders. Along with Elizabeth Karle, Dr. Pittman authored Rewire Your Anxious Brain, a book recognized for its clear explanation of how to change both the amygdala and cortex in order to make the brain more resistant to anxiety.
Dr. Pittman practices neurologically informed evidence-based psychotherapy, which focuses on understanding how the natural processes of the brain and body can be changed in order to improve one’s life. After 25 years of experience in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Neuropsychology, Dr. Pittman has acquired a substantial amount of knowledge about how to help people change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Her understanding of the complexity of the neurological underpinnings of fear and anxiety make her uniquely qualified to provide clear, understandable explanations of the neuroscience of anxiety. A central goal in her therapy is to help individuals understand what needs to be changed in the brain to help them accomplish the goals they pursue. She is continually amazed by the fact that the brain is capable of tremendous growth, change, and healing, no matter what the person’s age, and knows that, while medication can be useful, it is not always necessary to promote change.
Kelli Wright, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who uses an acceptance-based, cognitive-behavioral approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). She resides in Houston, Texas, where she has conducted her private therapy practice for over 10 years. In addition to counseling individuals struggling with an array of challenges from anxiety to substance use issues, she also evaluates veterans sent from the local VA hospital. Dr. Wright joined the advisory board of BIC because she witnessed some of her clients taking benzodiazepines who experienced worsening anxiety and depression along with harmful withdrawal symptoms when they attempted to discontinue. Based on the efficacy of non-drug based modalities for the treatment of anxiety and based on the potential for harm caused by benzodiazepines, Dr. Wright believes that benzodiazepines are overprescribed. Dr. Wright graduated from University of Houston in 2002 with her PhD in clinical psychology.
Angela Peacock served in the US Army from 1998-2004 and was medically retired after 1 tour in Iraq. She was medicated for PTS since that time, going on and off benzodiazepines several times under a doctor’s care until coming off for the final time in January 2016. She holds a bachelor’s of science in Psychology and is pursuing a masters in social work. She hopes to continue to advocate for veterans with PTSD and /or substance abuse and dependence. She joins BIC in the role of Military Liaison.
Sonja Styblo has acted as a community organizer and liaison regarding legislative change in the area of informed consent in benzodiazepine and non- benzodiazepine hypnotic prescription. She is an iatrogenic victim herself. Sonja has a particular interest in the intersection of benzodiazepines and complex post-traumatic stress. She is additionally interested in exploring relevant information regarding sociopolitical and economic systems as they relate to this mass and lengthy medical disaster. Sonja has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work.
Claire has a BA Hons and MA Hons from the University of Cambridge UK (MML and Social Anthropology – special interest in medical Anthropology) and an MSc in Global Politics. She interned at the United Nations HQ, New York and was made a Robert Schuman Scholar at the European Parliament Press Office London in 2002. Following this, she became Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Committee, where she regularly attended the EU Disability Rights Intergroup, dealt with all media/press matters and oversaw the running of both the Brussels and Strasbourg offices. Claire was first disabled by the prescribed benzodiazepine medication Xanax in the year 2003, since when she started campaigning on issues faced by severe childhood trauma survivors including PTSD sufferers. After 13 years on prescribed diazepam Claire discovered the cause of her disability and in 2016 founded the group Prescribed Harm UK in 2016, which was featured on BBC Radio 5 Live. She also contributed to the BBC TV’s Victoria Derbyshire programme regarding SSRIs/serotonin syndrome and the Daily Mail and VolteFace regarding benzodiazepines.
Barry is a qualified Accountancy Technician and has worked for Chartered Accountancy Practices, Manchester University and self employed Accountant. Whilst working for his final exams (passed with distinction) and holding 2 jobs down and bringing up a young family, he had a complete breakdown and was prescribed benzodiazepine drugs.After withdrawing completely in March 1986, Barry began to research his acquired problems ( permanent brain damage, neuro-pathic pain, fatigue, chronic daily headaches and others ) from these drugs for his own peace of mind and in order to help others. He was Chair of Oldham Tranx, a peer support group founded in 1989.He was instrumental in setting up (2004), the only UK National Health Service dedicated prescribed benzodiazepine withdrawal services in the town of Oldham, which is still currently providing this much needed and vital service. In 2007, Barry received the “Man of Oldham” award for his campaigning efforts at a public ceremony.He has given oral evidence to the Health Select Committee, House of Commons, London and has been a panelist and speaker in the House of Commons. He has also presented a “Benzodiazepine European Prescribed Drug Report” to the EU at Brussels. Barry and his wife Sue, have run a voluntary telephone advice service from their own home for the past 30 years in order to help others and pass on their shared experiences. He has campaigned vigorously with MP’s and Ministers for Public Heath and the British Medical Association, in order that this ‘Medical disaster’ be publicly acknowledged and acted upon, by government and their Agencies.Barry has been interviewed live regarding his 30 year campaigning efforts on BBC TV and Radio, 5 Live TV, and ITV and SKY TV.