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BREAKTHROUGH FOR 'BENZO' CAMPAIGN
April 7, 2003
Addicts hooked on tranquillisers were meeting Government ministers today to demand tougher controls and better treatment.
The campaigners - including Barry Haslam, from Oldham - were urging Drugs Minister Bob Ainsworth to recognise the dangers of wrongly prescribing tranquillisers.
And they were calling on him to expand Home Office treatment programmes, to allow people addicted to legally-prescribed drugs to take part.
The meetings constitute the biggest breakthrough yet in the long-running campaign to crack down on benzodiazepines, or so-called benzos.
Sufferers have complained of brain damage, hearing and thyroid problems, fatigue and mood swings, bad circulation, pains in limbs, slurred speech and memory loss.
The aim of the campaign is for benzodiazepines to be reclassified by the Government as a class A drug, alongside heroin and cocaine.
Mr Haslam was attending the meetings as the leader of TRANX - one of the best-known support groups in the country - which meets in Coldhurst.
He was joined by Phil Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who has spearheaded the campaign at Westminster.
Mr Woolas said: "I see this as a major breakthrough in our campaign for the Government to recognise that these drugs are addictive and dangerous.
"The problem is that, because benzos are prescribed drugs, they are not included in the Government's drugs strategy and there are no widespread treatment programmes.
"Many people are being prescribed the drugs for longer than the recommended three years and the physical symptoms makes staying on them the lesser of two evils.
"They have to give up their jobs, get on to welfare benefits and their families break down, so the cost to the country is greater than the cost of treatment would be."
The Beat the Benzos campaign has been taken up by MPs from all parties, with more than 80 signing a parliamentary motion calling on the Government to act.
They want GPs to stop overprescribing, and for the addiction caused by the drugs to be recognised in disability benefit guidelines.
There are thought to be 1.2 million people addicted to benzodiazepines - the equivalent of 150 for every GP in the country. Between 1990 and 1996, there were 1,810 deaths blamed on the drugs, more than the number of people killed by heroin or cocaine.
Media Archive · Beat The Benzos Campaign
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