The Withdrawal-Aware Doctor
Recently, I have been thinking about the difference it makes to the patient’s experience of withdrawal when a doctor is knowledgeable about the drug and its effects. I’ve heard accounts of doctors who are able to hold their patients’ hands (metaphorically speaking) and reassure them. I, too, was fortunate to have encountered the most encouraging doctor at a time when I desperately needed answers and appropriate care.
I recall going to see him at the private BUPA hospital in Cardiff during the later stages of my recovery, after having some weird ear sensations, facial numbness and other peculiar symptoms, and being told by my GP that I probably had a throat infection. The consultant was a semi-retired ENT specialist with kind eyes and a gracious manner. He gently placed his hand over mine, looked me in the eye and in a quiet yet firm voice said, “You’re still in withdrawal. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen patients who think there’s something else wrong with them but I’m telling you, it’s the benzodiazepine.” Then he patted me on my shoulder reassuringly and said, “Go home and don’t worry about it. You need to give it more time.”