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Colin Downes-Grainger
July 22, 2008

It was Bill Clinton who said you can never ever be too tough on welfare, they will always cry for more, but in spite of the headlines, the truly work-shy are a minority. As usual in life however, the minority are the ones whose existence determines the rules and policies all must live under.

Most people on benefit need an individual approach to help ameliorate their situation but it is extremely unlikely that those made into benefit claimants by prescribed tranquillisers will get it, let alone anyone else - even more so now that the Department for Work and Pensions has had a 2bn cut in its finances.

Many claimants might well be illegal drug addicts (always seen as authors of their own demise) - but will there be the necessary 200,000 new drug rehabilitation places to sort out their drug addiction? As always the proposed 'reforms' fail to recognise that there is another population of drug addicts and former addicts who need different help for different reasons the innocent and rejected patients who were addicted by doctors. Many of these are permanently disabled as a result of decades of blind prescribing, including a proportion which has already lost nearly everything jobs, houses, future and choice. Now it seems that along with all the rest they will be asked to prove they are worthy of the paltry benefits they have received in exchange for the loss of their lives.

Why is it that there are always more responsibilities for the poor and how cruel is it that these responsibilities must in the eyes of politicians be held equally by those made poor and ill by state policies on medicine and the subsequent denial?

Society is compartmentalised into responsibilities and the assumption is always that the responsibilities are being carried out. Politicians in general, shamefully know nothing about benzodiazepines, though some do know a little including health minister Dawn Primarolo. As well as being inexperienced, few Ministers or civil servants are in post long enough to learn much. The average tenure for a senior civil servant is less than three years, around two years for a cabinet minister and less than two years for junior ministers. Crucially important in this story however is the fact that the arguments of campaigners do not often reach the politicians on the whole they do not get beyond junior civil servants who reply on ministers' behalf (when they do reply that is).

At this stage though, after nearly fifty years of benzodiazepine damage, if any politician became fully aware, it is likely they would run a mile from the reality. It is conveniently and erroneously assumed that doctors and regulators act responsibly, when many doctors do not and the regulator certainly does not. It is assumed that there is a treatment for benzodiazepine addiction when there is not. It is assumed that benzodiazepine addiction is not all that serious when for many it is a matter of life and death both health-wise and economically. It is assumed that all doctors can recognise the impact of benzodiazepines when they cannot. All the assumptions and all the theoretical responsibilities prop each other up and rely on one another.

I and others have attempted to tell successive DWP secretaries and opposition spokesmen about the unique position of prescription addicts and former addicts, whether benzodiazepine or SSRI. As far as I know, no-one has received a reply - I certainly haven't. I doubt if the letters reached the politicians -if any did, then they have ignored them. The only hope I myself have since I have another DWP assessment next April when I will be 62 and a bit is that the state examination of claimants will start with the youngest and I may reach retirement age without benefit being taken away. I have no illusions at all about this process; it is popular with a largely ignorant public and with all political parties. Exceptions to the picture now being spread like:

'Shouldn't we look at people who have been forced onto benefits by the NHS differently?' will not enter into it I think. It is far easier to lump everyone together and adopt the same approach for all. Since most benzodiazepine symptoms are not acknowledged and no attention at all is paid to the economic and social effects, it is not a pretty picture for state-sanctioned casualties.

Colin Downes-Grainger
July 22, 2008

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