Giving Tuesday is back, and as we do each year, Benzodiazepine Information Coalition is asking our community for the support we need to continue the work we do. What’s different? Four years after our founding, I am more confident than ever about the future of benzodiazepine awareness. 2020, with all its serious challenges, has been a good year for benzo-harm recognition—including the initiation of a long-sought (and potentially game-changing) FDA black box warning—and we can thank the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our generous donors.
From today until the end of the year, I ask anyone who cares about benzo awareness to support us, either through direct donations, donating on our Facebook or Instagram, starting a fundraiser on our behalf on Facebook, or choosing us as your charity on Amazon Smile. As a token of our gratitude, we’d like to offer anyone who donates or fundraises $100 or more the choice of a World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day or BIC tank, tee, or mask, at no charge. Details here.
I’d like to share some of our 2020 milestones to give a sense of what our advocacy has accomplished. (To see more of our outreach efforts, visit Our Impact.)
New black box warning on all benzodiazepines. In September, the FDA responded to BIC’s calls to report patient harm, citing our efforts as key to triggering their investigation. The agency finally recognized what patients have been saying for 60 years: that benzodiazepine harm is much more severe than most of medicine believes, that patient injury can last years, that patients cannot give accurate informed consent with the current information available, and that patients are gravely harmed as a result. This change is huge: the new black box warning, coming soon, means the start of official recognition of our problem and gives our movement enormous momentum going forward.
The creation of a new Colorado group supporting safe tapering. Our coalition, partnering with concerned psychiatrists, survivors and other organizations, formed a new work group in Colorado for the benefit of harmed, physically dependent patients. Throughout the next year we will work on prescriber awareness, including establishing safe tapering protocols and even a benzodiazepine tapering clinic.
Academic presentations by our director. In May our director, Dr. Christy Huff, presented on Benzodiazepines and Suicide at the University of Colorado’s Psychiatric Grand Rounds. Along with Dr. Anna Lembke and Dr. Stephen Wright, she is also scheduled to present on Benzodiazepines: A Crisis Hidden in Plain Site at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry’s 31st annual meeting in December. She also will present in December with Dr. Sandra Steingard at the West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders.
Getting the word out in the media—accurately. Even with COVID limiting us and the US election more than dominating the news, we can still report some media success stories on which we served as consultants or interviewees, including in The Canadian Press, Irish Examiner, Men’s Health, and a few podcasts. Even more stories are pending in 2021.
Community screening of the year’s breakthrough film on psych-med harm. On July 11, World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day, we hosted a virtual screening of the new, award-winning documentary Medicating Normal (which features three benzo-harmed subjects), followed by a discussion panel. Ours was one of many screenings and discussions of the film that have been changing the conversation nationwide.
Expanding and revising our website content. Our website content continues to grow, with traffic increasing dramatically as well. We recently added new content to our site and revised our most popular content, including Tapering Strategies and Solutions. We continue to offer The Ashton Manual for free both on our site and in Kindle format on Amazon.
Building our social media presence. Our public awareness campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are all growing. We also recently relaunched our Instagram where we will feature patient stories, both harmed and healed.
Supporting BIC’s efforts into the future. Despite signs of progress, patients are still being harmed, and even killed, as a result of benzo use, with medical response almost entirely dangerous and insufficient. Due to COVID, benzodiazepine prescriptions have only been increasing, and we expect more patients to be harmed, with virtually none able to access useful medical help for this harm. We need to continue our work.
With the stars beginning to align, I believe this problem can truly be changed forever—a change we all can be part of. Now is the time to act and support Benzodiazepine Information Coalition so we can step up our work to end the harm, validate the survivors, and provide a safe medical environment for future patients. To donate today, or learn of other ways to support us, click here.
JC Curle was working on her Masters in Clinical Psychology when she became disabled by taking Ativan as prescribed by her physician. She founded Benzodiazepine Information Coalition in 2016 to facilitate awareness, education, research and change.