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Oldham Chronicle
November 8, 2006

Barry Haslam

A MAN who lost 10 years of his life to addictive tranquillisers is calling on the Government to toughen up guidelines for prescribing what he describes as lethal drugs.

Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, said he nearly lost his family after becoming violent and aggressive through his addiction to prescription drug Ativan.

He is demanding the Department of Health sets up support groups - like Beat the Benzos campaign group in Oldham - in every area of the country and issues mandatory guidelines that new patients would be allowed the drugs for only two to four weeks.

He said: "I had two young daughters and when I came off the drugs they were 15 and 16. I became violent, I never hit my family but I knew if I did not come off the drugs, I would lose them.

"Coming off was awful, my weight dropped from 14st to 7st, I had violent headaches and sensations maggots were crawling on me. I have no memory of the 10 years I was on them."

Mr Haslam (63) said he watched friends struggling with the drugs commit suicide because the appropriate support network was not in place.

He said: "If you are an alcoholic or drug addict, the support is there, but these drugs are being given out by doctors and support really needs to be in place for people coming off them."

His calls came at the launch of the All-Party Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction in Westminster yesterday which highlighted the misery of tranquilliser addiction. Headed by Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton Jim Dobbin, the group wants the Government to take action to ensure people are not left on the drugs for months, or even years.

Mr Dobbin said involuntary addiction causes untold suffering for addicts and their families and the group's role was to ensure the Government realised how it destroyed lives.

Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher, who attended the launch, agreed with the call to tighten legislation, saying: "It is too easy for doctors to prescribe the drugs and get the patient out, although I am not blaming doctors. This is a serious issue but it can be dealt with. I do believe we need to be dealing with the underlying cause not only the symptoms."

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