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Oldham Chronicle
July 29, 2005

Barry Haslam

An Oldham man’s fight to tackle the misery of tranquilliser addiction took a huge step forward as the Government unveiled new proposals on controlled drugs.

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins’s crackdown, which covers highly-addictive anti-depressants, is a massive boost for Barry Haslam’s Beat the Benzos campaign group.

Campaigners claim pharmaceutical companies and GPs have ignored evidence and guidelines showing highly-addictive tranquillisers were being over-prescribed.

Up to 1.2 million people in Britain are thought to be hooked on anxiety-suppressing drugs like Valium, Seroxat, Temazepam and Librium.

Mr Goggins proposed:

  • Making it easier to spot discrepancies in prescriptions by a single prescriber.

  • Extending monitoring of the prescribing of controlled drugs to cover private prescribers.

  • Compelling GPs and pharmacists to declare the amount of controlled drugs they hold each year.

  • Forcing pharmacists to ask name, address and identification of the person collecting controlled drugs.

Mr Goggins said: “These measures are designed to ensure patients are not put at risk by outdated practices while not compromising the legitimate use of controlled drugs by health professionals.”

Mr Haslam, of Uppermill, claims 10 years of his life were ruined by addiction to prescription drug Ativan. He is demanding new Europe-wide guidelines to address the problem.

This would produce best-practice recommendations on the treating of patients who are suffering withdrawal symptoms or those with permanent health problems.

Phil Woolas, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said GPs had not stuck closely enough to Government guidelines aimed at preventing the over-prescription of tranquillisers, which is a multi-million pound industry.

He said: “This is great news. It is about time the medical profession started to take this seriously. There is still huge over-prescription of tranquillisers despite 20 years’ awareness of the dangers.This consultation should act as a wake-up call for doctors.”

Mr Haslam, who was at the official opening this week of the country’s first NHS funded benzodiazepine withdrawal service in Greaves Street, Oldham, said the news was superb.

But he said the next step was enforcing the guidelines that GPs should only prescribe the drugs for two to four weeks.

“We have got to shut that door because people addicted to legal drugs are still coming forward. If we can do that we have got a chance.”

Media Archive · Beat The Benzos Campaign

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