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Sorry Toll of Tranquilliser Deaths

Letters, Oldham Chronicle
July 9, 2001
by Barry Haslam

Sir Keith Morris, former ambassador to Columbia, has called for plans to legalise heroin and cocaine and commented: "I hope the government will start a serious examination of the best way of controlling drug use within a legal framework."

"It will not be easy. Hard drug users may have to register with GPs and get their drugs on prescription. Some soft drugs might be sold under a regime like that used for alcohol and tobacco and, as Mo Mowlem proposed for cannabis, they would be tested for purity and taxed.

"The revenue would go to medical research and greatly improve education and treatment.

"There will be costs - probably, initially at least, greater use and addiction and problems quite unforeseen.

"But the benefits to life, health and liberty of drug users and the life, health and property of the whole population would be immense."

Contrast the above comments with benzodiazepine drugs. Statistics issued by the Home Office, of controlled-drug deaths for the UK covering years 1990, 91, 92, 93, 95 and 1996 show for deaths in the six years, Class-A drugs heroin and cocaine accounted for 291 and 43 (total 334), yet deaths related to Class-C drug Benzodiazepines (tranquillisers) numbered 1,810.

In the above six years, 542 per cent more deaths have been caused by medically prescribed tranquilliser drugs than so called hard and dangerous drugs.

It is for those very reasons, that benzodiazepine drugs should be upgraded to an A class, and a full public statutory inquiry called for.

There are still 1.5 million long-term benzodiazepine drug addicts in the UK, despite CSM guidelines to doctors (1988) that these drugs are to be given for two to four weeks only.

It is now time for the Government to act on the matter and impose a special tax on tranquillisers and sequestrate part of the drug companies' capital reserves.

This would fully treat addicts and damaged ex-addicts, fund detox units, re-hab centres, support groups at local and national level, and compensate them, for their involuntary addiction and suffering.

I maintain that if tranquilliser addicts had to go and rob to feed their addiction (instead of being GP prescribed) the damage caused to society would make heroin and cocaine addiction look like a tea party in comparison.

This Labour Government needs to accept its responsibilities now and should form an immediate working party. Lives are still being destroyed needlessly.

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