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Tranquillisers: 'Learn from the victims' plea

Oldham Evening Chronicle
Friday, August 10, 2001

A FORMER tranquilliser addict is calling on the top Whitehall mental health official to set up a joint inquiry into benzodiazepine drugs.

Mr Barry Haslam, of Uppermill, has written to Professor Louis Appleby, the Department of Healthís director of mental health, asking for a joint working party into all aspects of tranquilliser addiction.

Mr Haslam, who fought a ten-year addiction to Ativan, chose to target Professor Appleby because of his comments on a recent "Panorama" TV programme about the drugs.

The professor told the programme-makers that guidelines for not prescribing the drugs for more than four weeks were very clear.

But he added: "I think that the problem has been that changing individual prescribing practice requires more than guidelines."

He said prescribing practice changed slowly adding: "Thatís one of the lessons of this whole disaster."

Quoting his words back at him, Mr Haslam has now called on Professor Appleby to support reclassifying benzodiazepines as Class A drugs, as dangerous as heroin and cocaine.

He went on: "By your own admission, doctors cannot be trusted to follow simple guidelines."

He points out that as early as 1980, the Committee on the Review of Medicines reported that there was little evidence to show benzodiazepines were effective after four months' continuous treatment.

Mr Haslam is asking why doctors ignored guidelines and evidence to such an extent that around 1.5 million people are now addicted to the drugs.

He is also calling on him to reveal what practical plans the department has for the 1.5 million benzodiazepine addicts.

Asking the Professor to form a joint working party with former addicts, Mr Haslam added: "The medical profession can learn from us, the victims, then we can all unite and tackle the enormous problems involved."

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