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Benzo Barry asks Prime Minister to pay up

Oldham Chronicle
February 17, 2005

Barry Haslam

The Prime Minister has been asked to fund a major programme to deal with Oldham's 5,200 tranquilliser addicts.

The call comes from Uppermill campaigner Barry Haslam, of Beat the Benzos, who met Tony Blair last month in Manchester.

The Prime Minister held a reception at Granada Studio's "Coronation Street" set, for community-spirited citizens from the North-West.

They included Mr Haslam, who helped to persuade Oldham Primary Care Trust to set up the first withdrawal and treatment services for tranquilliser addicts.

He took along a dossier of evidence about involuntary addiction to prescribed drugs.

Although he was unable to hand it personally to Mr Blair, he had a good chat with Home Office minister Hazel Blears.

Now he has decided to write to Mr Blair, and told him: "As a good community citizen I have fulfilled my rights and responsibilities to my fellow human beings.

"Oldham currently has 5,200 long-term benzodiazepine legal drug addicts.

"Could you and your Government fulfil your rights and responsibilities by a substantial Department of Health funding to remedy Oldham's massive problem with these legal drugs?"

Meanwhile, the news of Oldham's pioneering benzodiazepine treatment for involuntary addicts has spread as far as Alaska.

A doctor from the North American state has contacted Barry after coming across his details on the internet.

Mark Button is a GP in Big Lake, and is also training at Columbia University, which has a major study on thousands of patients who want to withdraw from tranquilliser addiction.

He is also trying to get funding for a residential centre for patients.

Dr Button has heard from Mr Haslam about the treatment offered in Oldham, after the Primary Care Trust set up a withdrawal and treatment programme at Oldham Alcohol and Drugs Agency.

He is also working with a colleague in Big Lake who is working with the US National Institute of Health to start a pilot treatment programme.

Dr Button told Mr Haslam, whose persuasion convinced the Oldham PCT to release funds for the Oldham project: "I truly believe if we could convince the NIH that this program not only works, but would have a significant economical impact on our welfare system, not to mention the lives that we would put back together which leads to stronger family values, everybody would win."

Mr Haslam has provided him with a DVD of the Oldham conference on benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal held last April.

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