It is a haunting reality that addiction knows no boundaries. Two individuals, thirty years apart in age and separated by a distance of 200 miles, share a common thread of catastrophic addiction to prescription drugs. These stories serve as a sobering reminder of the devastating consequences that can arise from the misuse and abuse of these medications.
A Desperate Need for More
Rory Maslen, a 21-year-old student from Leeds, recalls the years consumed by a relentless craving for more of the drug that was slowly killing them. Within the confines of their university room, anxiety and depression festered, and Rory mistakenly turned to benzodiazepines, commonly known as benzos, as a solution. “There were weeks when leaving my accommodation solely meant acquiring a few boxes of pills,” Rory confides. “I was literally ingesting pills by the handful just to endure each day.”
William Anderson, a 53-year-old residing in Edinburgh, found solace in benzos after tragically losing his daughter at the age of 19. Initially prescribed seven pills a day, he soon resorted to obtaining them through illicit means. The pain of grief, compounded by a lifetime of trauma and isolation, steered Will towards what he describes as “benzo oblivion.” Taking a staggering 100 pills daily and even selling them to sustain his addiction, he found himself on the brink of death. In his darkest moments, he approached a group in the street, only to discover that it included his own son. The profound shame etched upon his son’s face served as a wake-up call, spurring him to embark on a journey of sobriety and create a support group called “Oor Willie,” which now boasts over 1,700 members.
Benzodiazepines, originally intended as anti-anxiety medications, have infiltrated the illicit drug market. Charities like Turning Point and UKAT report that countless vulnerable individuals across the UK resort to purchasing dangerous street benzos as a means of self-medication. Alarming testing services have uncovered that these street benzos, often sold for as little as 10p, are laced with synthetic opioids ten times more potent than Fentanyl, raising grave concerns for public health.
What began as a form of self-medication for Rory soon transformed into self-destruction. “I was completely stripped of any semblance of free will,” they recall. “Thoughts of obtaining further benzos consumed my every moment.” Rory’s excessive intake of 30 pills per day led to life-threatening seizures and debilitating side effects. Muscle pain, bone pain, constant tremors, and a scorching sensation when exposed to sunlight were just a few of the torturous symptoms they endured.
Rory’s passion for music and their desire to reunite with their band, Kiosk, empowered them to persevere and gradually taper off the benzos with the unwavering support of their family. Will’s journey to recovery, on the other hand, was spurred by a harrowing moment of self-realization and the determination to no longer succumb to the clutches of addiction. Turning his personal experience into a force for good, he qualified as an addiction support worker and founded “Oor Willie” to provide vital support to others trapped in the same cycle of despair.
When asked about their message to young individuals contemplating self-medication with benzos, Rory and Will echo a shared sentiment. Both implore prospective users to recognize the grave dangers inherent in their choices and seek healthier alternatives. Their stories serve as cautionary tales, illuminating the treacherous path that can ensnare those who turn to these medications in search of relief.
The harrowing narratives of Rory and Will exemplify the catastrophic consequences that can arise from the addiction to prescription drugs. These individuals, despite the generational gap that separates them, experienced parallel struggles in their battles with benzos. However, their journeys towards recovery demonstrate the resiliency of the human spirit and the potential for redemption. By sharing their stories, Rory and Will advocate for greater awareness of the dangers posed by illicit benzos, and ultimately extend a lifeline to those who find themselves ensnared in the destructive clutches of addiction.