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Oldham Chronicle
April 8, 2003

Chemists are likely to be ordered to keep killer "benzo" drugs under lock and key in a bid to stamp out the street trade bringing misery to addicts.

The Government will examine changing its rules to allow sufferers whose lives are ruined by the tranquillisers to claim benefits.

The twin pledges were hailed by MP Phil Woolas as stepping stones in the long campaign to persuade the Government to reclassify benzodiazepines, or benzos.

They were made at separate meetings yesterday between campaigners - including Barry Haslam, from Oldham - and government ministers.

Mr Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said: "The Minister said he was considering rescheduling benzos to make them a secure drug, like methadone.

"It would help greatly if they were kept in a safe, because many benzos are stolen and sold on the street illegally.

"We have been asked to put in a submission as to why tranquilliser addiction should be a criteria for getting disability benefit, which would help normalise people's lives.

"If that happens, we will be able to go to the Department of Health with more evidence of how much over-prescribing of these drugs is costing the country."

The campaigners met separately with Drugs Minister Bob Ainsworth and Maria Eagle, the Benefits Minister.

Benzo addicts 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 the drugs to be reclassified as a class A drug, alongside heroin and cocaine.

Mr Haslam attended the meeting as leader of TRANX - one of the best-known support groups - which meets in Coldhurst.

The Beat the Benzos campaign has been taken up by MPs from all parties, with more than 80 signing a Parliamentary motion which demands government action to ensure GPs abide by guidelines and stop overprescribing the drugs - a group which includes Ativan, tamazepam and Valium.

Media Archive · Beat The Benzos Campaign

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