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Heather Ashton Tribute

Tributes to long-standing academic, Professor Heather Ashton.

Tributes have been paid, including in The Guardian newspaper, to psychopharmacologist Professor Heather Ashton who started a clinic for people addicted to tranquillisers and wrote a manual on how to quit them safely.

As a teacher, researcher and clinician at Newcastle University for over half a century, she was much admired by generations of students, patients and colleagues. She died peacefully at her home in Gosforth aged 90.

She is best known for her pioneering work on benzodiazepine tranquillisers. Drawing with compassion and rigour on the experiences of her patients, she was the first to investigate the dangers of long-term benzo use and dependency. She established within the University the world’s only dedicated benzo clinic, and developed what came to be acknowledged as the only safe and effective method for withdrawal.

The manual she went on to write for patients and their doctors, widely known as the Ashton Manual, on how to quit benzodiazepines now provides the basis for best practice all over the world. She sought no profit from it and made it freely available to download at

At her funeral, her son John Ashton said: “You saved more lives, rescued more livelihoods, healed more families, restored more hope than anyone will ever know. You became an icon for thousands upon thousands of people around the world who got their lives back thanks to your dedication, your sheer hard work, and your compassion in their cause.”

The full obituary can be read in The Guardian.

Former colleagues and friends who would like to share memories of Heather are welcome and encouraged to contact her son John by email:

Tributes to long-standing academic, Professor Heather Ashton

published on: 27 November 2019