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Prescribed Drugs Seminar

Speech by Barry Haslam,
Portcullis House, House of Commons,
July 9, 2013

Could I thank ADS for giving me an invitation to speak today.

Oldham Tranx was started in 1989 by a retired CPN. We are a voluntary support group formed initially for involuntary tranquilliser addiction but now extend to anti-depressants, 'Z' drugs and painkillers. We meet on a weekly basis for two hours. The group listens to each others concerns, constructive advice is offered on side effects, withdrawals, coping mechanisms, we have booklets on diet, relaxation tapes and alternative therapies. I use Professor Heather Ashton's Withdrawal Protocol for reference. Members are at all stages of recovery, so pass on their acquired expertise to others, especially when another member is having a bad withdrawal episode. We seek drug free goals but respect members' own individual circumstances and decisions. We draw strength from one another and exchange phone numbers for further support. Suzanne and Angela, ADS Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Workers are qualified in Counselling, CBT, Relaxation techniques and Auricular Acupuncture and visit Tranx each week to provide invaluable support.

In 1976 I had a mental breakdown at the age of 32. I was holding down 2 jobs at the time, studying for my Accountancy Technicians exams which I passed with Distinction and being a Dad to Susan and Kath, then aged 7 and 6. I was then prescribed Librium and Valium for 5 years. 1n 1981 my doctors, in their wisdom, prescribed me 10mg of Ativan daily, increased to 20mg, then up to 30mg. So by 1985, I was being prescribed 30mg daily of a very powerful tranquilliser, which equates to 300mg of Diazepam daily and 12 x 30mg tablets of Dihydrocodeine tablets for severe headaches caused by the Ativan. All GP prescribed. No misuse by me but misuse of me by the doctors.

By now the drugs had turned me very violent and aggressive, looking for fights. I am a mild mannered former Accountant but these drugs turned me into a monster. The turning point came in late 1985 when I almost hit my wife Sue, whom I love dearly. In that short lucid moment I realised it was the drugs causing my abnormal behaviour. I had to get off them - or die - or lose my wife and family. I have put my fist through walls, doors and broke my right hand hitting a filing cabinet. So I withdrew myself over a 14 month period at home, with no help from my doctors. They ran away from the problem they had created. I became drug free on the 19th of March 1986...

By this time my weight had dropped from 14.5 stones down to 7 stones, I would not put a single person through the hell that I went through to withdraw from these highly addictive drugs. When I finally awoke out of my 10 year drug induced coma, my then two small daughters were all grown up. I have no memory at all, my memory bank has been wiped clean from 32 to 42 years of age. 1976 to 1986 is a total void in my life.

The results of my iatrogenic addiction have left me with permanent brain shrinkage, petit mal seizures, COPD, (I have never smoked) hypothyroidism, B12 deficiency, ME and neuropathic pain in my right leg.

All the points I have made referring to events from 1976 to 1986 were confirmed by my wife Sue and my inspected medical records. For several years after my withdrawal I had so much pent up anger at the doctors responsible but I realised I had to let this injustice against me go or it would destroy me. So, I did...I started to research the issues involved, actively campaigned to help others and have done so for the past 27 years.

In 1980 the CRM seriously fudged the issue of the scale of the benzodiazepine prescribed drug problem by stating that from 1960 to 1977 only 28 people had become prescribed addicts. Total rubbish, as during that period 350 million scripts were issued for benzos.

In 1988 the CSM issued guidelines that benzos were to be used for 2-4 weeks only and that included withdrawal. Why then do we have 1 million + prescribed long term benzo addicts in England? These guidelines should be made mandatory for new patients of benzos and 'Z' drugs and made enforceable by the BMA.

In 2004 Oldham PCT commissioned a benzodiazepine withdrawal service and quantified the problem of 5,200 long term prescribed benzo addicts in Oldham. If Oldham and now South Derbyshire can commission such vital services then so can other CCGs.

David Blunkett MP in a 1994 letter to me on prescribed benzo addiction said, "I'm pushing the Government to accept its own responsibilities and to take action now to ensure that it does not happen again. This is something we will be returning to both in the House and in terms of our own future policy development. I am passing your letter to the litigation side of what is a national scandal." At the time Mr Blunkett was the Shadow Health Secretary. Nineteen years have elapsed since this promise and nothing has changed and the issue is still a national scandal.

Not only have successive governments failed the victims of benzodiazepine and 'Z' drugs, the next elephant in the room are those patients being prescribed SSRIs by their doctors.

Mr Burnham, addiction to prescribed drugs is a political problem and it needs a political solution. Therefore will the Labour Party have the courage and future commitment, not only to tackle this national scandal but to place this important public health issue in the Parties 2015 manifesto?

Barry Haslam,
Chair, Oldham Tranx
July 9, 2013

See also: Haslam in call for action on addiction, Oldham Chronicle, July 9, 2013.

Oldham Tranx · Ashton Manual · APPGITA

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