Benzodiazepines, according to the National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, are a class of hypnotic drug often used to treat insomnia and anxiety, though long-term daily use can lead to addiction in a tiny minority of patients. Brand-name benzodiazepines include Klonopin, Ativan and Xanax.
Under Rep. Paul McMurtry’s bill (H 4062), the Department of Public Health would be charged with establishing protocols to help patients safely taper off and discontinue their use of benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics so that withdrawal is minimized.
Psychiatrists testified that restricting these drugs would deprive many patients of living a normal and productive life.
Testifying against the bill, Tufts Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Edward Silberman said that the stories patients told Monday were unlike experiences he had in his practice. (Cult watchers note those testifying for the bill were organized to do so by the anti-psychiatry movement, thereby skewing the testimony.)
“I’ve been in academic psychiatry my whole life,” he said. “Maybe I’ve been a little bit sheltered and people do things that I would be horrified to do, such as prescribing benzos or any other medications for vague reasons or insisting that a person stay on them who doesn’t feel well on them. That, I think would be, to coin a phrase, madness on the part of the treater, so I think the problem with legislation of this kind from my point of view is that it tars everything with the same brush.”
Silberman and other psychiatrists expressed concern that the regulations would dissuade doctors from prescribing the medications under appropriate circumstances when they could improve a patient’s life.
Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, the chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said hypnotic drugs are typically not the first line of treatment and an estimated 15 percent of the population “periodically and safely use these medications to manage stress, peaks of anxiety, insomnia.”
Dr. Edward Silberman of Tufts Medical Center: “Benzodiazepines, for the correct patients, can be lifesaving treatments.”
(All Massachusetts elected officials have been contacted and provided primary source evidence (screenshots, html) on the anti-psychiatry movement’s threats to doctors, connections to Scientology, etc. The majority of people promoting this bill are zealots of the anti-psychiatry movement.)