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MP urges new status for addictive drug

Oldham Evening Chronicle
Wednesday, August 1, 2001

"move to reclassify
benzodiazepine drugs"

The Labour Government must act to make tranquillisers Class A drugs like heroin and cocaine, according to local MP Phil Woolas.

Mr Woolas, who is also a government whip has written to Home Secretary David Blunkett to ask for a meeting to discuss benzodiazepine addiction.

He has outlined the dangers of the GP-prescribed drugs, which are thought to cause amnesia and neuropoisoning as well as long-term addiction.

Mr Woolas, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, pointed out that the drugs were now prescribed for a maximum of 28 days.

But his constituent, Mr Barry Haslam from Uppermill, who first alerted him to addiction, was prescribed the drugs for 10 years.

The MP is also concerned because of the growing illegal trade in the tranquillisers.

He wrote: "In 1995 alone, the Metropolitan Police seized two million benzodiazepine capsules from street use, and in 1999 Customs and Excise at Dover seized 510,000.

"Between 1991 and 1992 there was a four-fold increase in drug-related deaths in Glasgow, with the common benzodiazepines, temazepam and diazepam, often being mixed with Class A drugs such as heroin, as the cause.

"There is also the added problem of prescriptions to pregnant women, who pass on benzodiazepines to their babies through the placenta.

"Children born to such mothers, as well as being born as addicts themselves, are often susceptible to cognitive damage, autsim and other developmental problems."

He added: "It is my belief that a socially responsible Labour Government must act now, and move to reclassify benzodiazepine drugs to an A classification."

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