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BBC 2 North of Westminster,
November 17, 2002
presented by Morland Sanders

Left to Right: Morland Sanders, Ray Nimmo, John Grogan MP

There are fears that more than a million people in Britain may be addicted to tranquillisers like temazepam and diazepam. The drugs are prescribed by GPs for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia, but they can have serious side-effects if they are taken for long periods. We'll talk to the Selby MP John Grogan, who's campaigning for stronger guidelines for doctors and better services to help people who are affected.

Morland Sanders: If you've been to the doctors and you're suffering from symptoms such as anxiety or insomnia then you may well have been given a course of tranquillisers like diazepam and temazepam. But how safe are they if you keep taking them for long periods?

Well, a man called Ray Nimmo from Scunthorpe was addicted to tranquillisers for 14 years after being prescribed Valium by his GP. He says it turned him into a 'zombie' and a few months ago he was awarded 40,000 in a court settlement. Mr Nimmo is far from alone.

It is estimated that more than a million people suffer from the same addiction to this class of drugs known as Benzodiazepines. Well, this whole issue is due to be highlighted in a Commons Motion next week by the Selby MP John Grogan and he joins me now in our studio in Westminster. John Grogan... a pretty worrying statistic there - more than a million people addicted to Benzodiazepines?

John Grogan: It is worrying. When you bring that down to every doctors' surgery in the country, that means there's probably nearly 200 people suffering at each surgery and they can be suffering all sorts of different symptoms: acute depression, in some cases suicidal depression, insomnia itself, agoraphobia and so on - all because they've been on the tranquillisers for far too long in some cases.

Morland Sanders: Fourteen years... Ray Nimmo from Scunthorpe... that seems extreme?

John Grogan: It is extreme. It wasn't until the late 1980s that the government and doctors realised the damage that these tranquillisers could do if they were prescribed for too long a period and at that stage the Government issued advice to doctors that they should only be prescribed for a relatively short period (2-4 weeks only). But for some people the damage was already done and there's some evidence that some doctors still overprescribed well into the 1990s and it's to highlight this issue which affects every constituency in the country that we're putting down the Motion this week and having a Reception at the House of Commons because many of these people, by the very nature of these symptoms, suffer in silence and their problem isn't highlighted.

Morland Sanders: What can your government do about this Mr Grogan?

John Grogan: Well, it's really a drug problem, isn't it? So it needs, firstly, to be given much greater attention by the Department of Health in its drug policies. These tranquillisers and the damage they do has to be recognised. Secondly, in terms of Social Security many people who are suffering long-term symptoms find it hard to get benefits because it tends to be up and down. One day they can cope with life, the next day they can't and that needs to be recognised as well. And thirdly, we need to make sure that today doctors are sticking to the Guidelines and that they're not overprescribing - they're only prescribing these tranquillisers for very short periods and they're not letting a whole new generation of people become dependent.

Morland Sanders: You talk about increasing attention there, but there's possibly a war looming if Hans Blix and the rest of his team can't get into Baghdad and the fire fighters are on strike... are you not worried that it will become buried?

John Grogan: There is always a danger that it will become buried and partly because people suffer in silence. There's thousands of people in Yorkshire who are suffering the ill effects of these tranquillisers and they tend to be very isolated so all we can do is, at least on one day in Parliament, try and get the attention of parliamentarians towards this subject which blights so many people's lives.

Morland Sanders: John Grogan, MP for Selby, thanks for your time.

Media Archive · Beat The Benzos Campaign 2002

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