“As Prescribed” on view at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival

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Producer Holly Hardman will present her new documentary at the NHDocs Festival which presents the dangers of benzodiazepines.


Collaborating journalist


Courtesy of Holly Hardman

Xanax, Klonopin, Valium — these all belong to a type of drug called benzodiazepines, drugs that are frequently portrayed in the media as addictive or as nerve-relaxing pills.

Film producer Holly Hardman reveals a different narrative with her new documentary, “As Prescribed,” which shows the damage caused by benzodiazepines with lasting effects even after withdrawal. The film screened at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival on October 15.

“Too often, the easiest thing for a prescriber to do is offer a pill,” Hardman said. “And I just saw too many casualties, too many wasted lives. And I would like to do something to change that.

The film features several different lived experiences of people in the United States and their struggles with benzodiazepines. While withdrawing from the drugs, many suffered from a “mystery illness” caused by the benzodiazepines themselves.

Hardman decided to make the film after his own struggles with benzodiazepines. She is a survivor of an incorrectly prescribed benzodiazepine, Klonopin, which was offered to her for her chronic fatigue syndrome.

“This style of cinema is always led by a writer who is deeply committed to the subject,” said cinematographer Scott Shelley. “And Holly is really that person. Our people are really engaged and really dedicated to this stuff. It becomes a crusade, and certainly a campaign. People don’t get rich and famous during this thing. People do this stuff because they care deeply about it, and they’re really trying to do some good in the world.

Production filmed across the United States from Utah, California, Colorado and Massachusetts. Additionally, they used self-recorded videos from the UK, Denmark, and Japan.

Filming began in August 2014 and the last shot used is from fall 2021, with text giving an update to May 2022.

“There’s no Netflix budget for stuff like that,” Shelley said. “The overall authority, overall story and situation has never really been shown much. A huge number of people hear anecdotal stories or have experienced it themselves, but they don’t really idea of ​​the magnitude of the problem.

Hardman wants to reach a student audience to show the harm they cause to students and encourage future scholars to research the side effects and harms of benzodiazepines.

“Young people are still being prescribed these drugs,” Hardman said. “The pressure to do well in college is intense, and it creates a lot of anxiety and depression. I would also love in the college setting for more research to be done. It’s not just about protecting students , we need more members of academia to engage in research and find it a vibrant area of ​​study and exploration.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed medication, and in 2019, approximately 92 million benzodiazepines were prescribed. The most common were Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan.

In September 2020, the FDA updated its black box warning, the highest risk warning for drugs, for benzodiazepines to include information on “the risks of abuse, misuse, dependence, physical dependence and withdrawal reactions”.

“The problem is that most people don’t know [the harms of benzodiazepines]Bernie Silvernail, founder of the Benzodiazepine Best Practices Alliance, told The News. “It was not taught in medical schools. … We wait 20 years for the practice to change. And frankly, we’re just not willing to wait for that.

“As Prescribed” performed at Bow Tie Cinemas on Saturday, October 15 at 7 p.m.

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