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Campaigner in drug talks
February 20, 2003
by Janice Barker
Tranquilliser campaigner Barry Haslam has been having talks with health bosses about reducing addiction and getting help for addicts.
Mr Haslam, from Uppermill, fought his own battle against the benzodiazepine drug, Ativan, and is a member of the addicts' group, Tranx.
He also runs the Beat the Benzos campaign, a pressure group working with MPs and health professionals.
He met Mr Alan Higgins, the Primary Care Trust's director of public health, Mr Peter Harrison, the Mental Health National Service Framework facilitator, and Mrs Gwen Higham, from Oldham's Drug and Alcohol Advisory Service.
Mr Haslam, who is campaigning for more funds to help addicts to kick their habits, and for treatment, has urged the primary-care trust to use additional money which will be coming from the Government next year and until 2006.
The PCT chief executive, Mrs Gail Richards, has been unable to make any promises, but she has told him that a wide range of experts are already involved in tackling the issues, including family doctors, mental-health staff, voluntary groups and other resources.
She added: "Through our prescribing incentive schemes, the PCT has been positively encouraging a reduction in the level of benzodiazepine prescriptions.
"In addition, practice pharmacists have been contacting patients with offers of support if they wish to decrease or withdraw from the drugs."
Doctors are also being encouraged to support people with problems that might lead to being prescribed benzodiazepines,such as underlying mental health causes.
Mr Haslam said: "I know that they want to do something, but there is no money in the pot at the moment.
"However, Peter Harrison is trying to quantify the number of addicts who have been taking them for more than four weeks. It will be interesting to see what figures he comes up with."
Mr Haslam has also submitted evidence to a House of Commons committee which is looking at narcotic drugs.
Evidence is being gathered before a UK delegation goes to the United Nations central-policy making session, the 46th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
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