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Oldham group to lead fight against tranquillisers

Oldham Chronicle,
April 18, 2000

An Oldham group is to help lead a national campaign for tougher controls on the prescribing of tranquillisers. The quest, which will be launched in July 2000, follows fears by depression sufferers that benzodiazepines have turned them into addicts.

MPs, academics and sufferers have promised to reveal sensational new evidence of the way drugs companies have covered up the dangers of 'benzos'. They will be pressing the Department of Health to provide more treatment centres where addicts can be weaned off the drugs.

A 30-strong Oldham group - called Tranx which meets at Coldhurst Community Centre - has led calls for a crackdown. Its leader, Barry Haslam, has told of his nightmare after 10 years of taking Ativan. He says he suffered brain damage, hearing and thyroid problems, fatigue and mood swings, bad circulation, pains in his limbs, slurred speech and memory loss.

Mr Haslam will join Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas in London, when the campaign is launched in three months' time. The Labour MP has attacked what he terms the culture of prescription in the Oldham area, saying GPs are far too quick to hand out the pills. Mr Woolas said: "I believe that many people, including pensioners, have become addicts after taking these drugs."

Last year it has revealed that many more people in the Oldham area take tranquillisers than cross the rest of Britain. Within the West Pennine Health Authority area, 40% of people are prescribed benzos, along with another drug. That compares with a national average of 16%, according to figures revealed to MPs. West Pennine Health Authority is carrying out an audit of its GPs to try to reduce the level of prescriptions of benzodiazepines.

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