Not worth the gamble


Adrian Wilson was delighted when his medication for restless leg syndrome began to work. Little did he know the high price he’d pay for taking it

It is hard to know where to start my story as the last eight years has been, to sum it up, a living nightmare!

I have had multiple sclerosis (MS) for 28 years. It started as relapsing remitting and slowly developed into secondary progressive. Fortunately, it has remained pretty static with regard to symptoms over the last few years. Despite all the struggles I have faced, it has luckily not got a lot worse.

I know how to live with my symptoms and like we all do, have good and bad days.

And so, on to my story! It all started in 2013. I went to see a GP (not my own one) at my surgery as I was having trouble sleeping due to constant restlessness lying down that stopped when I got up. The GP diagnosed that it was restless leg syndrome (RLS).

They told me there was a treatment available called Ropinirole. So, over the next two years, I took this drug, and it was gradually increased as I was still struggling with symptoms.

Feeling the effects

Moving forward to September 2015, I visited the GP again as the drug wasn’t giving me any relief, yet alone stopping the RLS. The GP told me that a stronger dosage might help. I was prescribed a dosage of 3mg twice a day. I slowly started to notice a lessening of symptoms of RLS over the next six months.

Next, something strange happened. In March 2016, I started to feel not quite myself.  It was hard to explain, and I couldn’t work it out.

I was browsing the internet one evening and I remember seeing an advert regarding the lottery and how the chances of winning the jackpot were unbelievably bad odds. Had you thought about other ways that guaranteed you better results? It asked.

I can’t explain why I did it, but the next thing I knew was reading about different gambling sites and the much better odds of winning. So, not quite realising why, I signed up to this website. It was called Virgin Games.

Then I started gambling in small amounts and winning. Not huge amounts but I was winning and slowly but surely carried on, every day. Winning but also losing. And not understanding why, I kept on gambling more and more with bigger and bigger amounts.

Jekyll and Hyde

My family knew nothing of what was going on. One minute I was being a good husband and father. But as soon as I was alone, I suddenly felt myself needing to be in this world of bright and colourful lights, slots spinning, loud noises, pound signs flying everywhere, and I couldn’t stop myself!

I had turned into a Jekyll and Hyde character. I had become very secretive and sometimes very reclusive. Even at work, I stayed in an office by myself. I signed up to more and more gambling sites. I just couldn’t control what was happening.

Then about four months later, I broke down one morning and confessed to my wife how I had lost £5,000 gambling. I had always done the banking and looked after our finances without any problems. The only thing I ever did before I started gambling was to buy a weekly lottery ticket!

Out of control

But there was something in my brain that told me that I couldn’t stop. I had no concept of what I was doing – winning, losing, it didn’t matter. I was stressed, couldn’t eat or sleep properly and in July 2016 started having visions and voices in my head. It was then that I tried to take my own life.

My wife discovered me the next morning on the sofa. I had taken an overdose of anti-depressants and tied an electric cord round my neck. I just wanted everything to end, and this was the only way I could see of stopping it. I was in such a desperate and fragile state, all I could think of was myself. I had no thoughts about my wife and daughters.

The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital.  My MS and mobility were badly affected. I was assessed by the mental health team.

A specialised physio helped me daily with my mobility problems. I was there for two weeks. In hospital, I was referred to the crisis, assessment and treatment team (CATT). This was a very big help.

Upon discharge, I was placed under the local council’s community mental health team and had many appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists. It was in December 2016 that I had an appointment with my MS consultant. He was running late so I saw his understudy first. He started to take some details and asked how I was coping with my MS. It was then that I totally broke down and confessed everything.

Over 10 months, I had gambled away £100,000. I had taken out loans, maxed out credit cards, and used almost all our savings. I nearly lost everything.

Eureka moment

Then, the understudy looked something up on his phone and told me to have a read of what was on it. It was all about the link between the drug I was on, Ropinirole and pathological gambling. The GP never warned me about any possible serious side effects, not in 2013 or again in 2015.

I read it and discovered that this drug affects the dopamine part of your brain.  Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain to make you feel good, known as the ‘reward’ chemical. Low levels of dopamine have shown to be linked to RLS, amongst other things.

The understudy bought my wife into the room, and I was an emotional wreck. I said to my wife, “I told you it wasn’t me doing this!” The doctor then told me to stop taking this drug and, two weeks later, the desire to gamble had completely disappeared.

But the damage had been done and now I knew what had caused me to gamble, I started doing some research online about this drug. I found that hundreds, if not thousands of people around the world had been affected by serious side effects in different ways.

I did more research and found a firm of specialised solicitors and I got in touch. This started the ball rolling of a seven-year involvement with them. This was a seven-year nightmare that I thought would never end.

The solicitors, Tollers, I couldn’t fault in any way. Their commitment and dedication on a no win, no fee policy was more than I could ever have imagined. But I now owed £100,000 and had to repay this money. I was advised that there was a charity called StepChange who are the UK’s leading debt charity. They helped me to start the process of repaying my creditors and getting my life back in order.

But I still wasn’t myself. Mentally, I didn’t feel right.  I had done things that had affected my whole family.

Over the years between 2017 and 2023, I had many assessments by independent GPs, MS consultants, psychiatrists and psychologists. All were part of not only my case against the NHS over medical negligence but because of continued mental health and MS problems.

It was only after much investigation that I discovered there was a medical publication covering all medicines. The maximum daily dosage I should have been prescribed was 4mg for RLS. Yet this GP had put me on a daily dosage of 6mg per day. And I was on this, every day, for 15 months.

The worse thing was that this case just dragged on and on and on. Just when it seemed like it was coming to an end, the solicitor had to extend the date with the defendant. This was not only affecting my mental health more, but my family as well.

Getting back on track

In 2023, after much solicitor intervention and the involvement of a barrister, the NHS paid for private treatment for my continued mental health problems. The treatment was a miracle. It was called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). It’s designed for trauma and PTSD. Over 12 weeks, this literally saved my life and sanity.

Finally, in September 2023, the NHS admitted liability and medical negligence by the GP and awarded me full damages and compensation in settlement of this case.

We won’t ever get back the time we lost as a family. However, for me and my family, life can finally begin again. A new future was ahead without any depression or anxiety affecting my MS, no more mental health problems and no more financial worries!

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