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MP takes drug fight to the top

Oldham Evening Chronicle
Monday, July 23, 2001
by Janice Barker

Campaigners against the use of benzodiazepine drugs are taking their case to the top.

They briefed Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas before he wrote to new Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Mr Woolas is hoping to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Mr Blunkett, at which he will also ask him to meet with victims of addiction to the prescribed drugs.

Campaigners, including Mr Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, who is disabled after addiction to Ativan, hope to persuade the Government to class benzodiazepines alongside the most dangerous class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

Mr Woolas said: "We are also arranging a series of public hearings around the country, the first is in Manchester in November.

"Manchester has the highest level of prescribing benzodiazepines than any health authority in the country.

"Oldham's was historically high, but has come down because of the campaign."

Last year, Mr Haslam and Mr Woolas helped to organise the first international conference on addiction to benzodiazepines in London.

Now a second one is planned for this year over the toxicity of the drug.

Mr Haslam, a member of the Oldham Tranx group which meets regularly at Coldhurst Community Centre, said the makers of the recent BBC TV programme "Panorama", which looked at the cost of over-prescription and addiction to the drugs, are considering making a second programme.

He added: "We are keeping up the pressure and becoming more proactive. And more and more MPs are becoming involved and tabling written questions about the drugs."

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