Drug addiction is, in most peoples minds, something that affects those who take illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Most of these individuals are unaware that those who abuse prescription medication can also be classed as drug addicts.
An increasing number of people are becoming reliant on medication supplied to them by a GP for a variety of legitimate conditions, including chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety disorder. Most patients are under the impression that anything prescribed by a doctor must be safe. The reality is that most prescription medication is safe provided it is taken as directed, and not abused. Abuse would constitute taking more of the drug than was indicated, or taking it more frequently than advised. Taking prescription medication that was prescribed for another person is also classed as misuse and could lead to a devastating addiction.
Aimi Garidis is a widowed mother bringing up her daughter alone because an addiction to benzodiazepines killed her husband Chris, who suffered from anxiety disorder and was buying Valium online. Aimi was completely unaware of her husbands secret addiction to the drug, as were the rest of his close family and friends.
Danny Kushlick from Transform, a drugs charity, said that Chris was one of many people struggling with an addiction to prescription medication. He went on to say, There are an estimated one million benzo addicts in the UK thats more than heroin and cocaine. But because the vast majority of users have been prescribed the drugs to treat anxiety and depression, there is a misconception that they are safe to use.
Aimi met Chris in Australia in 2003, and she said he took Valium for the first time there in a bid to calm down while travelling long journeys on a bus. She said, Valium can be bought over the counter there and lots of travellers take it. Chris was a ball of energy, and someone suggested he took a couple to help him sleep. I thought he would leave it behind in Asia.
Once back at home in London, Aimi noticed that Chris seemed to spend a lot of time worrying, but, unbeknown to her, he was self-medicating with Valium that he was buying from the internet and getting delivered to his office. Aimi says that Chris was a high-functioning addict.
She did notice that whenever they were out, he seemed to get very drunk, very quickly. She only discovered his problem in 2010 when he began to act very strange after she suffered a miscarriage. She then found Valium under his mattress and, when she confronted him, he admitted he had a problem. They then reached out for help.
Chris was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and was treated with antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy. After the birth of their daughter in 2012, Chris tried to come off the antidepressants, but without the right advice, he began to feel depressed and was soon taking Valium again.
He knew he needed help and arranged to see a doctor. However, before the appointment, he was away on a work trip and took a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that, sadly, led to his death.
Aimi said, One of the biggest issues is that Chris felt too ashamed to admit to his problem.
She added that Chris did not take the medication recreationally; he wanted to forget about his issues. Aimi wants more people to realise that it is okay to talk about problems with drugs, and she is supporting Transforms Anyones Child campaign with the hope that the stigma around drug addiction can be removed. She said, I hope that by creating awareness for addiction and mental health, it will encourage others to stop feeling ashamed and seek help.