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The Independent
April 20, 2003
by Jo Dillon, Deputy Political Editor

Valium - dubbed "mother's little helper" - is to be classed in the same category as morphine in moves to tighten controls on anti-anxiety drugs and tranquillisers, campaigners have been told.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who in opposition called the addiction of an estimated one million Britons to benzodiazepines a "national scandal", is to order a review of the way such drugs are handled and prescribed.

Ministers have told campaigners they will reclassify the drugs from Schedule 4 to Schedule 2 to prevent them from being prescribed repeatedly, and to ensure pharmacists keep them locked up.

The drugs in question include diazepam, known under the brand name of Valium, the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam or Xanax, and the fast-acting flunitrazepam, branded as Rohypnol, which has been used in drug-related rapes.

Although doctors are advised to prescribe the drugs only for up to 28 days, many people have stayed on them for years. Addicts complain of side effects including memory loss, aggression and fatigue.

From 1990 to 1996, Home Office figures show that 1,810 deaths were blamed on benzodiazepines - more than the total for heroin and cocaine.

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