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Oldham Advertiser
February 25, 2004
by Jamie Waterhouse

Action is to be taken to deal with more than 5,200 people addicted to prescription drugs in Oldham.

Oldham Primary Care Trust is set to become one of the first authorities in the country to offer a benzodiazepine withdrawal service.

Latest figures suggest that 1 in every 41 residents are on 'benzos', which include tranquillisers such as diazepam, temazepam and chlordiazepoxide.

Dependency among Oldhamers is slightly higher than the national average.

Now funding has been secured for the specialist service which will help people come off the drugs safely.

The scheme involves a new prescribing strategy and education programme for patients and GPs. It will look at recommended levels and how long patients should be on the tranquillisers. It will also invite patients to discuss withdrawal from the of the drugs.

Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health for Oldham, said: "The aim of providing a specialist withdrawal service like this is to give people the support they need to come off benzodiazepines."

"If people have been using these drugs for some time it may not always be easy, or indeed desirable, for them to simply stop out right. The new service will be able to support them through a controlled and managed withdrawal."

"We hope that this service, coupled with new measures we're taking to work with GPs to look at the prescribing of these drugs, should make huge inroads in Oldham into tackling what is a national problem."

The new service has been welcomed by Barry Haslam, of School Street, Uppermill, founder of the Beat the Benzos campaign, and a member of the Primary Care Trust's selection board for the service.

A trained accountant, Barry spent 10 years on various benzos.

He said: "I lost 10 years of my life because of being prescribed these drugs and am still suffering from their effects. I cannot remember my children growing up and I am determined that other people should not suffer in this way."

Barry recently visited Brussels with North West Euro MP Chris Davies and presented EU Health Commissioner David Byrne with a dossier that outlines his organisation's aim to see benzos reclassified from Class C to Class A, which would put them on a par with heroin. He is hopeful that the lead on this may come from the European Parliament.

Media Archive · Beat The Benzos Campaign

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