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News Release
February 2, 2004

Barry Haslam

Doctors across Europe are being accused of encouraging millions of people to become addicted to drugs said to destroy more lives than heroin and crack cocaine.

This week a British man will be taking to Brussels his campaign for the EU to issue strong guidelines on best medical practice when prescribing benzodiazepines and helping patients who have become addicted.

Barry Haslam, founder of the 'Beat the Benzos' campaign and a former addict himself, will be presenting his proposals to EU Health Commissioner David Byrne, backing them up with personal statements from scores of benzodiazepine addicts.

Mr Haslam (60) said: "I lost ten years of my life because of being prescribed these drugs and am still suffering from their effects. I cannot remember my children growing up and I am determined that other people should not suffer in the same way."

In Britain alone there are said to be over 1.2 million people addicted to the drugs. Commonly known by brand names such as Temazepam and Librium they are prescribed to treat depression and stress. Some 1,810 deaths from poisoning are attributed to their use between 1990 and 1996.

Physical dependence can start within four weeks of their use, with side effects that can include increased anxiety, aggression, insomnia but also drowsiness. Withdrawal effects can be extreme.

Mr Haslam is calling for the European Commission to recommend an action plan including strong health warnings on all packaging, inspection of doctors' prescribing practices, and establishment of 24 hour helplines across the EU.

His Euro-MP, Liberal Democrat Chris Davies, last year secured the backing of the European Parliament for a call to prepare guidelines on the use of the drug and help for addicts. The European Commission has agreed to take up the idea.

Mr Davies commented: "Millions of people are being turned into lifelong addicts by doctors who continue to ignore prescribing guidelines.

"Because those affected don't have to steal to fund their habit, but instead get the drugs from the health service, their plight goes largely unnoticed by society. But the social cost of family breakdowns and individual impairment is immense."

DATE: February 2, 2004
CONTACT: Avril Manderson
TEL: 0161 477 7070/07808 368953
EMAIL: amanderson@cix.co.uk


A Call for EU Guidelines on the Prescribing of Benzodiazepines, Barry Haslam, February, 2004.

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