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As Prescribed cover image

As Prescribed 2023


Distributed by The Video Project, 145 - 9th St., Suite 230, San Francisco, CA 94103; 800-475-2638
Produced by Holly Hardman
Directed by Holly Hardman
Streaming, 92 mins

College - General Adult
Prescription Drugs; Psychiatry

Date Entered: 01/31/2024

Reviewed by Brian Falato, University of South Florida Tampa Campus Library

With the state of the world today and uncertainty over what the coming years hold, it’s understandable why someone would be anxious. A doctor making a diagnosis of anxiety in a patient will often prescribe a benzodiazepine to help. “Benzos” include such drug names as Xanax, Librium, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. Opioid prescription drugs have gotten a lot of attention because of their addictive potential. Benzodiazepines have not received the same scrutiny. But as the video As Prescribed shows, long-term use of these drugs can cause multiple problems both physical and mental.

The video unfolds through the stories of several benzo users in different parts of the country. Even though these people are using the drugs as prescribed and with the approval of their doctors, they suffer from a litany of problems, made worse by the fact that they all seem to be occurring at the same time. Withdrawing from the drugs, even gradually, presents its own set of hazards. End results include family breakups, homelessness, and sometimes even suicide.

One woman trying to do something about this is Geraldine Burns in Massachusetts. Prescribed Atavin after the birth of her second child, she suffered through nine years of problems before finally being able to stop using it. She formed a help group on social media for benzo users and advocated for a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would impose more control. It can be exhausting work, and she says she will have to pull back on her efforts after her husband received a double cancer diagnosis.

With all the suffering documented in the video, the question arises: Why are doctors continuing to approve prescriptions for long-term users when the harm seems obvious? At the Massachusetts legislative hearing on the benzo bill, psychiatrists are seen testifying that the drugs are very safe and there is little chance of addiction or withdrawal problems. As is said in the video, this statement seems ludicrous in light of the documented suffering.

It would be worthwhile to have another documentary focusing on the history of benzodiazepines and the rise in prescriptions for them, as well as exploring why some psychiatrists seem to downplay any dangers from them. This video, though, provides a service in alerting people to the benzo problem and is recommended for colleges and public libraries.

Angeles DOC, Best Feature Documentary; Love Wins Film Festival, Best Message-Driven Film

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