top of page

The Ashton Manual: What Is It and Why Should I Read It?

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Have you read the Ashton Manual? Do you know what it is? Do you know who Prof. Ashton is? Well, if you or anyone you know is dependent on benzos, you should.

In today’s feature, we focus on Professor C. Heather Ashton, her work with benzo withdrawal patients, and her life-saving manual. And we say a heartfelt thank you, for all she has done. We also touch on some news, discuss GABA receptors and the doctor dilemma, and share the first benzo story from one of our listeners.

Video ID: BFP007


Watch the Video

The Benzo Free Podcast is also available on...



03:02 Mailbag 11:42 Benzo News 14:18 Benzo Story 19:08 Feature: The Ashton Manual 30:17 Closing



The following resource links are provided as a courtesy to our listeners. They do not constitute an endorsement by Easing Anxiety of the resource or any recommendations or advice provided therein.



FEATURE – The Ashton Manual


Episode Summary

This is the last of our launch episodes, next week we start with our regular weekly schedule releasing a new episode each Wednesday. Today’s feature is focused on Prof. Ashton and the Ashton manual and we also have a lot to share in our Mailbag, Benzo News, and Benzo Stories sections.



Today’s introduction, in contrast to our last episode, was quite short. So, let’s move on.



This is where we share questions and comments from our listeners.

  • Can you tell me when the podcast episodes will be released each week? This question was submitted by Elizabeth in the comments for episode 5. I released the first 5 episodes on Wednesday, Feb. 21st The next week, this week, I am doubling up on episodes. I released episode 6 on Tuesday, Feb. 26th. And I am releasing this one, episode 7, on Thursday, Feb. 28th. Starting next week, we will be on our regular weekly schedule going forward. A new episode will be released every Wednesday. Depending on the speed at which the providers, such as Apple Music, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, and TuneIn approve new episodes, they will be available online Wednesday or Thursday.

  • What are GABA receptors? I keep reading about them online, but I still don’t really understand what they are, or how they work. Rather than repost the entire description here, I will share a link to the Basics of Benzos page on the Benzo Free Website. Scroll down to “How Do Benzos Work?” for an explanation.

  • COMMENT: Regarding our discussion on doctors in our last episode, “Dependence, Disbelief, and the Doctor Dilemma.” Here are a few excerpts from the comment that I shared on the podcast. You are very fortunate in your experiences with doctors. When I was going through acute benzo withdrawal, my doctors treated me like a criminal. They accused me of having taken more than was prescribed and then they accused me of having conversion disorder. They treated me like I was paranoid. I was told that benzo withdrawal symptoms only last a few weeks. I went through absolute hell for 14 months and have debilitating symptoms to this day although I have had improvements. The only good thing to come of this is that I vowed I would make a difference for other people and change the way the medical system treats patients like me. Now I’m halfway through an MSW program and intend to go back to the HMO, the next time with LCSW credentials and copies of work on benzo damage that I will eventually publish, and lay it out for them again, this time from the standpoint of a mental health professional who has been iatrogenically harmed. Meschelle from Alexandria, Virginia


Benzo News

Want to Prevent Suicides? Stop Ignoring Benzo Patients”

I shared highlights from a blog post on the website of the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition (BIC). Here are a few of my comments. Please visit the BIC’s website to view the article.


Benzo Story

We finally have our first story to share in our Benzo Stories section.

I just ran across your podcast and I have listened to the first 3. My story. I’m 57. I have been on Xanax for 33 yrs, basically my entire adult life. I have 2 grown children and 5 grandchildren [and] a very supportive husband (a wonderful hard working, easy going man of few words).

We live in a very rural area in SE Kansas. My first panic attack was when I was 7. I really don’t know how I made it through school. I had to learn how to hide my panic. No one knew about it, not friends or family. After my children were born, I finally couldn’t cope so I went to my doctor and he put me on Xanax. Finally, I could relax.

I started working at a mental health clinic where I started talking to the staff and physiatrist. I have been to the Mayo clinic in Scottsdale, KU medical center, doctors in Tulsa and so many therapists and counselors that I can’t remember all of them. I was taking up to 8 mg a day until about 18 months ago. I was also on Ambien, buspiron, and imipramine. I was again transferred to another counselor who said I needed to get off of it.

I’m now down to 4.5 mg a day of Xanax and am still on the others. No one ever told me about these drugs. I like you finally started to do research while going from 5 down to 4.5 and suddenly I started feeling symptoms of withdrawal. Now along with yet another therapist we are continuing the taper but she wants me to wait another couple of weeks before tapering down by .25 mg because of the symptoms.

I know I have a long way to go. I have been house bound since the first of Feb. I have been relying on my faith to get through this. I am already on disability since 1997 and am really thankful for that, but the panic “disorder” is what I get disability for.

I could go on and on but I’m sure you have heard it all before. My taper is going to be long and slow at first to see how I handle it. I made my first taper by myself and it was too much for me. My doctor told me I could go back up by .25 mg but I didn’t want to do it so I didn’t. When I get through this with the grace of God I, want to help others.

I appreciate you and what you are doing. I think the handling of this medication is one of the most underestimated and uninformed there is. Keep up your good work! I’ll be listening and reading your book. And God Bless you! Cheryl

Cheryl, from SE Kansas, USA



Today’s featured topic:

The Ashton Manual – Who Wrote It and Why You Should Read It

This feature topic is a sort of homage to Prof. Ashton and the Ashton Manual. Benzo Free, along with its host, support The Ashton Manual and recognize the number of lives it has saved over the past many years.

Please be advised that Professor Ashton is now fully retired and no longer based at Newcastle Univeristy. She is therefore unable to deal with personal email enquiries with regard to benzodiazepine-related problems. Please also note that Professor Ashton does not support or endorse any internet support group.

CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS Here are some highlights of Prof. Ashton’s career:

  • Graduate of the University of Oxford where she obtained a First Class Honours Degree (BA) in Physiology in 1951.

  • Postgraduate Doctor of Medicine degree (DM) in 1956

  • Member of the Royal College of Physicians, London in 1958

  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London in 1975

  • A National Health Service Consultant in Clinical Psychopharmacology in 1975

  • A National Health Service Consultant in Psychiatry in 1994.

  • A researcher, lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, and professor at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

  • A patron of the Bristol & District Tranquilliser Project

  • Involved in the UK organization, Victims of Tranquilizers (VOT)

  • Has submitted evidence about benzodiazepines to the House of Commons Health Select Committee.

  • Has a Facebook page dedicated to her titled: “Tribute to Professor Heather Ashton”


For twelve years I ran a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic for people wanting to come off their tranquillisers and sleeping pills. Much of what I know about this subject was taught to me by those brave and long-suffering men and women…It is interesting that the patients themselves, and not the medical profession, were the first to realise that long-term use of benzodiazepines can cause problems.

— Prof. Ashton

I shared some highlights from a letter written by Wayne Douglas, co-founder of World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day (W-BAD), regarding the nomination of Prof. Ashton for Queen’s Honours. You can read the letter via the link below. W-BAD Web Page with Letter


The manual itself consists of four chapters:

  • CHAPTER I: The benzodiazepines: what they do in the body

  • CHAPTER II: How to withdraw from benzodiazepines after long-term use

  • CHAPTER III: Slow withdrawal schedules

  • CHAPTER IV: Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms, acute & prtracted

Here are a few words from the 2011 supplement to The Ashton Manual:

It is important to remember that by far the greatest majority of long-term benzodiazepine users do recover from withdrawal – given time. Even protracted symptoms tend to decrease gradually, sometimes over years. The individual needs to know that the actual drug withdrawal is only the first step towards recovery. It may be followed by a prolonged period of convalescence during which the damage caused to the person’s body – and often to his whole life – needs to be repaired as far as possible. But the brain, like the rest of the body, has an enormous capacity for adapting and self-healing. That is how life survives and how ex-benzodiazepine (quote) ‘addicts’ can be optimistic about their future.

— Prof. Ashton

Until you have been through the ordeal of benzo withdrawal, and found yourself so desparate for information and guidance, you’ll never know the type of life raft that this manual has been too us.

Prof. Ashton, thank you.


The Podcast

The Benzo Free Podcast provides information, support, and community to those who struggle with the long-term effects of anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium) and Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata).


All content provided by Easing Anxiety is for general informational purposes only and should never be considered medical advice. Any health-related information provided is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems, or to prescribe any medical devices or other remedies. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it. Please visit our website for our complete disclaimer at


Music provided / licensed by Storyblocks Audio

Benzo Free Theme

— Title: “Walk in the Park”

— Artist: Neil Cross


Easing Anxiety is produced by…

Denim Mountain Press

©2022 Denim Mountain Press – All Rights Reserved


bottom of page