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48,000 EASES ADDICTION PAIN

Oldham Chronicle
January 30, 2004

Oldham Primary Care Trust reports by Karen Doherty

A new service to help the thousands of Oldhamers addicted to tranquillisers is a step closer. Community health bosses have accepted a 48,000 tender to set up a benzodiazepine withdrawal service.

This will form part of a three-pronged approach to help people beat addiction to drugs, which are handed out on prescription.

An education programme for patients and GPs about recommended dosages, and how long people should take the drugs for, is underway. Pharmacists are also working with patients to look at different ways of reducing benzodiazepine use.

Prescribed

Benzodiazepines were once regularly prescribed by GPs for patients suffering from anxiety or insomnia, but the rules have now changed to encourage short-term use only.

More than 5,000 people in Oldham are legally addicted to the drugs - which led former benzodiazepine user Barry Haslam, who lives in Saddleworth, to wage a war against their prescription.

Current medical thinking says the drugs are helpful if taken for up to four weeks for severe symptoms, but can become addictive if taken for longer. A report to yesterday's meeting of Oldham Primary Care Trust says they should not be used to treat mild anxiety.

Benzodiazepines tend to lose their sedative effect with long-term use which, says the report, which may lead to people increasing their dose and becoming addicted. The risk of dependence starts after about eight weeks, although some people can become addicted much earlier.


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