A HELENSBURGH therapist has voiced her disappointment at the Scottish Government's attitude to her petition seeking more help for people struggling to come off prescription medication.

Marion Brown, who set up the Recovery and Renewal support group in the town in 2013, spoke to the Advertiser after Scotland's mental health minister appeared before MSPs to answer questions on the issue.

But Ms Brown said answers given by Maureen Watt to Holyrood's public petitions committee left her feeling as if “the door was being shut in our faces”.

She said: “Patients are being harmed by these medications. More and more people are being started on these drugs every day, and these drugs change lives. Forever.

“I thought Maureen Watt was very uncomfortable. We've been trying and trying all this time to feed in our concerns, and they just get airbrushed out every time. I just felt stunned.”

The petitions committee also heard from Dr John Mitchell, Scotland's principal medical officer, and from policy adviser Jenny Simons, in response to Ms Brown's call for more, and better, support for people suffering prescription drug withdrawal symptoms.

But Ms Brown said: “We've been writing to the Scottish Government since 2014 and they've kept fobbing us off.

“We've spent four years going round in circles, and how many more people have had their lives ruined in that time?

“It's a massive problem, and for as long as it's not being recognised as such, these drugs are damaging people's nervous systems.

"This is something we have to look at right now.

“What's upsetting people is it feels as if there's a dead hand, snuffing it out. But we know it's an absolutely huge issue. People are being trashed, and not believed, and it's just horrible.”

Ms Brown recently met local MSP Jackie Baillie in Helensburgh to discuss the campaign.

With her at that meeting was Rosneath resident Ann Kelly, who was on anti-depressants for more than 30 years and who suffered severe withdrawal symptoms when she attempted to reduce her reliance on prescription medicine.

Ann told the Advertiser: “I really struggled. I decided to taper my use myself and it took me two and a half years, but my world completely fell apart.

“At my worst I was catatonic, I was struggling to walk and speak, I was having nightmares, I was frightened, andxious and agitated – there's no symptom I didn't have. As the dosage came down, so the symptoms increased.”

Ms Baillie said: “I have been working with Ann Kelly for many years as she has highlighted concerns about the over-prescribing of anti-depressants and the impact on patients.

“I have helped secure meetings with the Health Secretary and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and very much welcome the parliamentary petition as the next logical step to raise awareness of the issues at stake for many patients in Scotland.

“Anti-depressants can be effective and they have certainly helped a lot of people but they need to be used appropriately.

“This petition has attracted a large number of submissions from patients, including Ann Kelly, sharing their own experiences of the damaging side-effects of prolonged use of anti-depressant medication.”

Following the evidence from Ms Watt, Dr Mitchell and Ms Simons to Holyrood's petitions committee last month, Public Health England announced it was to conduct a review into prescription drug addiction.

The British Medical Association is also supporting calls for a dedicated helpline and website for people suffering withdrawal symptoms after coming off prescription drugs.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All medicines are prescribed based on clinical need and discussed with patients within the context of their long-term recovery.

“Prescriptions should be reviewed regularly to achieve the best possible health outcomes and on-going support should be provided to patients who are prescribed medicines that are known to be addictive.

“Information and support is available through NHS 24 for people with prescribed drug dependence and we are working a range of measures to help tackle this problem.

“We are liaising with Public Health England to consider if its review of prescribed medicines addiction could extend to include Scotland.”