Nicole, a dedicated Physician Assistant, calls Virginia her home. After earning her Bachelor's degree from James Madison University in 2000, she pursued her passion for healthcare by completing the Master of Physician Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2004.
Virginia-based Physician Assistant Nicole's life took an unexpected turn following a severe illness caused by benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, leaving her unable to practice in her Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine roles. With a solid academic background, having completed her BS at James Madison University in 2000 and a Master of Physician Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2004, Nicole never anticipated that a prescription for "work-related stress" in 2005 would change her life dramatically.
Over five years, Nicole experienced a range of symptoms indicative of benzodiazepine tolerance withdrawal. These symptoms were misdiagnosed as mental illness by multiple psychiatrists, leading to a prescribed polypharmacy of various drugs, including two benzodiazepines, a Z-drug, an antidepressant, and an antipsychotic. A magazine article in 2010, detailing a journalist's similar symptoms, prompted Nicole to investigate her situation further. Upon discovering the link between her symptoms and her prescribed medication, she immediately decided to withdraw from the drugs.
Tragically, due to a lack of proper guidance and information regarding the importance of a slow taper, Nicole was cold-turkeyed in a detox center, leading to a severe and protracted withdrawal syndrome that continues to this day.
In the moments when her symptoms subside, Nicole dedicates her time to raising awareness of benzodiazepines and their potential to cause severe and prolonged withdrawal syndromes. She actively volunteers for benzodiazepine awareness initiatives, such as the Benzodiazepine Information Coalition and the Benzodiazepine Action Work Group of the Colorado Consortium. As a co-founder of The Withdrawal Project, Nicole also contributes to marketing, distribution, and outreach efforts for Medicating Normal-The Film, and serves as an associate at the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal.
Drawing on her personal experiences, Nicole is determined to advocate for increased education and awareness around the risks and harms of benzodiazepines, as well as to promote changes in prescribing and withdrawal practices.