- 08 May 19
When Rory Stokes was in his 20s, he underwent a deeply traumatic experience. He subsequently became more and more dependent on a cocktail of drugs, prescribed for him by a number of doctors. Here, he sounds a warning bell about the reality of what over-prescription can do to people.
I witnessed a friend burn himself to death with petrol. That was many years ago, but as you can imagine, it was a deeply traumatic experience. It left scars that have sadly only got worse with the passage of time. I often wonder might it all have been handled differently. I have decided to talk openly about it now, because I hope that, in doing so, I can stop others ending up taking so many meds that they destroy their lives.
The cumulative effect of the treatment I have been given is that I have become unable to work and far too often feel like a useless, worthless piece of crap. As a result of what I witnessed, all those years ago, I started to have massive anxiety attacks and flashbacks. In an attempt to deal with these, I went to a GP. He put me on Xanax/Benzodiazepine (for anxiety); Zispin/Mirtazapine (an anti-depressant) and Stilnoct (a sleeping tablet). I was never told that these were addictive.
It was five years before I was actually diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For the first four years, I attended Cluain Mhuire (John of Gods outpatient clinic). There, I saw the head hocho, Dr. Binchy (author Maeve’s sister) regularly, until she passed away. She was a real character, smoking cigars during our meetings, which of course was permitted at the time. I liked her a lot. She was followed by Professor Lucy Moore, who I saw for another four years. She was wonderful and used Cognitive Behaviour therapy in a way that seemed to work for me. I was still gainfully employed, but the extent of the meds was probably having an increasingly negative effect even then. Throughout those eight years, I was on Mirtazapine 30mgs (Anti Depressant), Xanax 5mgs x 3 (Anti Anxiety) and Stilnoct 10mgs (Sleeping Tablet).
Then I moved to Bray (out of the Dublin catchment area) – and that’s when the problems escalated. Since then, I have been seen in Lincara Health Centre in Bray. I have been going there for over 10 years now. For a long time, the system seemed to be based on a sort of ‘first come first served’ approach, and so I seldom saw the same psychiatrist twice in a row. Over the years, they increased my Mirtazapine to 45mgs; added Lexapro 20mgs (Anti-D); Lyrica 300mgs x 3 (Anti Anxiety); Seroquel aka Quitiapine (Anti Psychotic) 100mgs x 3. They also gave me Valium 5mgs x 4 to replace the Xanax for.
My illness continued to get more complicated. I have been having chronic daily headaches since 2014. A neurologist I was sent to in St Vincents told me that it was the sheer volume of the tablets – of the drugs – that was causing headaches. Despite the neurologist’s report, my Meds were not changed. The effect is that I currently live like a zombie, sleeping over ten hours a night. I find it difficult even to do normal everyday things like cooking, cleaning, exercise and so on. For good or ill, I rarely met the main consultant there, before he eventually retired.
It goes on. I have now developed severe agoraphobia and rarely leave the house. I’m stuck in a rut not of my making. I used to be lead singer with The Sussed and, by day, worked in accounts. But all of that is in the past. I’m currently unemployable, and am on Invalidity Pension!
The Sussed reformed in 2014 and recorded half a new album, before I was struck down with agoraphobia and had to cancel playing the Trinity Ball and Electric Picnic. Thanks to Spit Records, we were able to re-master four tracks, including two previously unreleased songs, and we released the four-track EP. It outsold the original by some distance. In addition, Spit Records have recently released a Best of Irish Punk CD, including The Sussed’s ‘I’ve Got Rabies’. In a normal world, all of that would be hugely uplifting. And in a way it is: it is like a confirmation of what I always felt. Yes, we were actually pretty good. But the reality for me is that, unless I can find some way to come off most of these addictive meds, Big Pharma have me by the balls and I have no future in society.
In 2018 I decided to take my own initiative. I very slowly tapered from 200mgs x 3 Lyrica, on my own, to 50mgs x 4. Dr. Golden is now chief consultant in Lincara, and I see him every time I go, which is a big step forward. He too is determined that I should reduce the meds, to the extent that he let me know that he would send me back to my GP (who refuses to prescribe psych meds) if I didn’t start tapering off the meds that the other docs threw at me. That process is slow, but it is working. Over the past four months I have dropped 1mg of 1 tablet of Valium each month, so I am now down to 4mgs x 4 a day instead of 5mgs. When that is finished, I will taper off the rest of my Lyrica, followed by Lexapro.
Altogether, that should take two years from last October. But at least there is a path ahead that I can follow... It doesn’t change the fact that Big Pharma & the Addictive Drugs – not a bad name for a band – have destroyed me. I was suffering from PTSD. My understanding is that I should have been given just Xanax and Stilnoct. Instead, I became a mini-cash cow for the big drugs companies. How many others like me are being over-prescribed, in all sorts of different ways? And how much does that contribute to the crisis in the health system here in Ireland?
I know that they do a difficult and often thankless job, but I believe that GPs and psychiatrists MUST be held accountable if they prescribe addictive drugs without properly informing the patient. The treatment of certain conditions requires drugs. But it needs to be managed very carefully and, if at all possible, minimised. Where serious mental health issues are concerned, there are no easy answers. But it can’t be right for anyone to end up taking massive volumes of addictive drugs in the way that I ended up doing. So, if you are being prescribed drugs, make sure to ask if they are addictive – and always bear in mind that it is the equivalent of a slippery slope. That is what I discovered to my cost.