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Oldham Chronicle
August 11, 2003

Oldham tranquilliser addicts are being asked to help the European Union tackle the problem of addiction to prescription drugs.

The request follows action by the Liberal Democrat North-West Euro-MP Chris Davies.

He has been working with Beat the Benzos, the action group set up by Uppermill campaigner Barry Haslam, to highlight the plight of people addicted to prescription drugs.

As a result, the European Commission has agreed to draft guidelines for an EU-wide approach to the problem, and is asking for help from people with first-hand experience.

Brussels officials will be conducting a survey of victims and their families.

The aim is to produce best practice recommendations on treatment and support for patients suffering from withdrawal symptoms or with permanent impairment.

And local people are being invited to contact Mr Haslam with their experiences to pass on to Mr Davies.

The Euro-MP said that over 1.2 million people in Britain are long-term addicts of drugs said to be more dangerous than heroin.

Benzodiazepines (benzos) are widely prescribed by doctors as sedatives to treat conditions such as anxiety and muscle spasms, and are commonly known by brand names such as Valium, temazepam, Librium and Ativan.

It is recommended they are taken for no more than four weeks, but repeat prescriptions are often issued for years on end.

Side effects include insomnia, anxiety, aggression and drowsiness.

Mr Davies said: "At last, recognition is being paid to thousands of silent addicts in this country and across Europe.

"Their shared experiences will be vital when compiling these guidelines."

Mr Haslam, who fought a 10-year addiction to Ativan which left him with neural problems, said: "British doctors were misled by manufacturers during the 1970s and 1980s into believing these drugs were safe for widespread use.

"Gradually the dangers have been recognised, but it has taken a long time for anything to be done.

"Legally induced addiction to these neuro-poisoning drugs should be given the recognition by government which its seriousness and dangers indicate."

Mr Haslam can be contacted on 01457-876355 and his address is 7 School Street, Uppermill.

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