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Why the Benzo Research Project?

The UK is fast noting a rise in benzodiazepine usage, particularly amongst young people. The pandemic proliferated an already worrying trend of increased consumption of BZD; the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams, as well as increased unemployment and housing prices has led to feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty, leading to a concerning rise in BZD consumption. Studies indicating public policy concerns have mostly been conducted in Scotland and the US, but England and other devolved powers are falling behind on acknowledging this as an emerging problem.

This study aims to understand the lived experiences of young people who use or have been around those who use benzos (18-25): motivations for consumption, the extent of NGO outreach and support, and whether educational harm reduction strategies would be beneficial.

Who we are:

Born in Brighton, the project expanded to become a team of 30 students from around the world; our main objective was to understand and evaluate the lived experiences and motivations for non-prescribed use of benzodiazepines in the UK’s young adult population (18-25).

​We wish to create a space for those affected to vocalise their experiences (both positive and negative), to evaluate the current support options for those struggling with benzo use, and the role that education plays. Our team analysed over 19,000 words worth of testimonies to produce a report including recommendations for stakeholders. This will be launched at KCL, Macadam Building MB2.2 (19:00-21:00) on 05/12/22, live streamed, and recorded – sign up here for more information.

Non-prescribed benzodiazepine use and its consequences are rarely discussed, and when it is, young people’s voices and stories are not centered in the conversation – our platform seeks to change this.

Whether it be negative experiences from taking benzos, positive reasons for using them, or situations you have experienced as a consequence of someone else’s benzo-taking, we’d like to hear from you. We hope that these testimonies will provide evidence for policy reforms, and to generate ideas as to how best to support young people.

You can get in touch with us at benzoresearchproject@gmail.com

Twitter: @BenzoResearch

Instagram: @benzoresearchproject

Website: https://benzoresearchteam.weebly.com/about.html

Project aims:

Understand young people's motivations for recreational benzo consumption

  • Our platform will create a space for young people across the country to share their experiences with benzos anonymously. We hope this will create a better understanding of why people take benzos, what harms can arise from benzo use (both to the individual and those around them) and the level of awareness for support systems in place for people struggling with benzo use.

These contributions may, in the future, be analysed and used for research and for creating harm reduction conten

Connect with NGOs by forming partnerships, hosting regular meetings, and hosting a cross-sector policy debate

We sought to build a picture of benzo use in the UK from the experiences shared to devise policy recommendations to NGOs. This is in the hope to:

  1. Help them implement more effective and targeted harm reduction strategies and outreach campaigns. For example, via considering Soundclound subculture as an influencer in benzo consumption, and targeting outreach campaigns accordingly
  2. Spread awareness of the growing usage of benzos recreationally by young people in the UK, particularly on motivations behind usage and what effective drug support looks like to them
  3. Host a final report launch event with a cross-sector drug policy panel debate answering ‘What should the UK’s drug policy look like in future?’ This will include our Outreach team sending out the report, event recording, and a link to our FOI campaign findings to stakeholders
  • We hope that from the stories shared, we can build a picture of benzo use in the UK which we can bring to NGOs and charities working in this field, to help them implement more effective harm reduction strategies and outreach campaigns. Knowledge sharing is central to success, and we are actively looking for organisations to connect with.

Increase media coverage of young people’s recreational benzo usage

  • We believe that the growing benzo problem in the UK is under-reported, and young people's voices and experiences aren’t heard in the conversation.
  • Our testimonies cover recreational benzo use in the UK, gaps in current support systems, opinions on the role of education and influence of subcultures, and more.

To create and distribute harm reduction information on Instagram to young people across the UK

  • Thanks to King’s College London’s Student Opportunity Fund granting us £1,000, we’ve been able to reach over 60,000 unique accounts on Instagram.
  • We nearly are at 1,000 followers on Instagram, with regular positive feedback

Partnerships: We are currently partnered with Drugs and Me, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Volteface, Youth Rise, Westminster Drug Project, Crew2000, and Change Grow Live.

Purpose for Stories - what will we do with the stories

Primarily, our platform is a space for you to share your honest experiences with benzos, and to see that you aren’t alone in these experiences. Please note: these contributions may, in the future, be analysed and used for research, with the possibility of entries being quoted in reports, newspaper articles, harm reduction leaflets, or drug safety applications.

Through collecting and considering stories of lived experiences from young people, this project seeks to provide an overview of the current situation of youth benzo recreational usage in the UK. We hope this will give local authorities and NGOs a better insight into whether current programmes are working and successfully reaching the right people. In doing so, more data will be made available to incentivise changes to drug policy from a public health and social care perspective. It could also contribute towards increasing treatment adherence levels and further involvement of adolescents with pre-existing NGOs.

We plan to produce a report from anonymous submissions which we can share with charities and NGOs to help support harm reduction strategy. We hope to share the platform and the stories shared with media outlets in order to bring the issue into public consciousness. Output from the project will be used to help design harm reduction workshops for young people and we have plans to produce our own harm reduction/safe consumption materials, in partnership with Drugs and Me.

How does it work:

When you submit your testimony on the Drugs and Me webpage, it will be submitted to Drugs and Me's database in Amazon Web Services. Approved members of our teams (Benzo Research Project and Drugs and Me) who have signed a data protection agreement will access these, and store the testimonies locally. We will upload your testimony to the platform, and delete the original submission.

If you find it difficult to write, we suggest that you use the speech-to-text function in Google Docs or Microsoft Word to share your story. Following this, you can copy and paste this into our submission box.

Anonymity: You will submit your stories anonymously, and we do not condone mentioning other people’s names. Any identifying information which may compromise your anonymity (e.g. mentioning friends’ names or another form of personally identifiable information) will be edited out by a member of our team, who will have signed a data protection agreement. We will use false names for each story, and we cannot see any IP addresses.

We include the option to add your general location and gender as this will allow us to understand the scope of benzo use in the UK. However, this is not obligatory.

Contact us via our website contact form here.