OBITUARY –

Jan. 3, 2020 – The result of her work, in 1999, was “Benzodiazepines: How They Work And How To Withdraw.” Now known simply as “The Ashton Manual,” it has become a cornerstone for those looking to quit the drugs safely. Addiction researchers worldwide still cite it in studies on benzodiazepines. And patient support groups have translated and distributed it in about a dozen languages.

Dr. Ashton died on Sept. 15, 2019, at her home in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. She was 90. Her death, which had not been widely reported, was confirmed by her son John … “Heather was a remarkable person,” Nicol Ferrier, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Newcastle University who worked closely with Dr. Ashton, said in an interview. “She was very upset by this problem of benzodiazepine dependence that was essentially caused by doctors overprescribing the medications, and she took it upon herself to help patients struggling to withdraw from them.”

From 1982 to 1994, Dr. Ashton ran a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, tailoring her tapering schedules for each patient. She acknowledged that benzodiazepines could be useful in the short term, but said that they should not be taken for longer than two to four weeks. Long-term use, she found, often led to physical dependence. 

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