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Drugs help group sets the standard

Oldham Chronicle
January 6, 2012

PUBLIC health minister Anne Milton is set to visit Oldham to see how the borough is tackling prescription drug addiction.

The MP will see firsthand how Oldham Tranx and Oldham ADS run the country's only service to address problems with benzodiazepine drugs, such as valium or diazepam.

The visit follows reports that doctors are being sued for creating prescription drug addicts amid claims they failed to follow safety guidelines published over 20 years ago.

Over 1.5 million people - 5,000 in Oldham - who are addicted to the benzo drugs used as sedatives or anxiety-relieving medication, can suffer withdrawal symptoms similar to heroin.

Barry Haslam, who set up Oldham Tranx support group and has campaigned on the matter for 25 years, says he is keen for the minister to see what great work the service is doing. His group and Oldham ADS hope that the Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group will take over the new contract for the service in 2013.

The grandad-of-three found himself addicted to benzos after going to his GP with stress-related problems while he was trying to keep two jobs down and revise for accountancy exams.

Because there was no help group available at the time, he had to wean himself off several tablets, including an opium-based painkiller over several months.

Barry said: "There is still a big problem in Oldham but we are the only NHS-funded service in the country helping people with legal drug addiction - over 99 per cent of the help is for illegal drug addiction.

"You can go to the GP for benzos, which cause depression, so you find yourself on anti-depressants, beta blockers, sleeping tablets and other drugs - all of which can be very addictive. We want the minister to see how what we do in Oldham could be played out to the rest of the country - but we do need funding. Doctors should be prescribing the drugs to be used for two to three weeks but that is systematically ignored with drugs like diazepam which have 200 side-effects."

Voluntary staff believe the Oldham scheme can go towards a solution sought by the minister.

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