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Addict's plea to PM

The Northern Echo
April 5, 1994

A Darlington mother fighting tranquilliser addiction has written to Prime Minister John Major after losing a legal battle for compensation. Mary Griffiths says years of taking the Ativan drug have ruined her life and led to distressing side-effects from suicidal depression to agoraphobia.

But she and hundreds of other former North-East tranquilliser users were denied legal aid by a High Court judge last month - crucial in their costly claim for compensation from the drug manufacturer.

Mrs Griffiths, 38, of Cringlemoor Crescent, Darlington, said yesterday that she wanted Mr Major to help their campaign. She is seeking compensation from John Wyeth and Brother, manufacturers of Ativan, after suffering side-effects including claustrophobia, anxiety attacks, insomnia, nausea and memory loss. The firm has been fighting the action.

'Thousands of people were depending on legal aid for compensation. As far as the solicitors are concerned, it's the end of the road for Ativan claims. But the fight must go on and I want Mr Major to help,' she said. Mrs Griffiths, who is registered disabled, was prescribed Ativan in 1975 for post-natal depression and took the drug in daily doses for 17 years.

Only now is she being weaned off Ativan and its side-effects. 'I am a prisoner in my own home. I am frightened to go outside on my own and I need round-the-clock attention from my family in the house. 'My husband is here all the time. He can't even go to the pub with his mates without me saying "Please don't leave me" and panicking. He hasn't got a life.'

The Firthmoor mother-of-four added: 'The drug was doing me more harm than good. But doctors say coming off Ativan is worse than coming off heroin.'

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