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Oldham Chronicle
March 6, 2007

TWO Oldham MPs are supporting calls for an inquiry into the use of addictive tranquillisers to ensure no more lives are ruined by them.

Phil Woolas (Oldham East) and Michael Meacher (Oldham West) want the Commons Health Select Committee to hold a full inquiry.

Barry Haslam of Uppermill, lost 10 years to addictive tranquillisers and has repeatedly called on the Government to toughen up guidelines for prescribing them.

Yesterday, committee chairman Kevin Barron met a representative from Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin's office to discuss the suggestion.

Mr Woolas met Mr Barron privately as he was unable to make the meeting.

He said: "These drugs kill people and cause more damage and unhappiness than class A drugs. I was very pleased by Kevin's understanding of the problems."

Labour leadership contender Mr Meacher said: "I absolutely support an inquiry.

"These are addictive prescriptions and I think their potency and the downside effects are underestimated and deserve a full-scale inquiry and to be put on the Government's agenda."

Mr Haslam wants the Department of Health to set up support groups - like Oldham's Beat the Benzos - in every area of the country and to issue mandatory guidelines for new patients which would only allow the drugs to be taken for two to four weeks.

He said: "I was told Kevin Barron has seen many stories from the Chronicle and has gone away to talk to other members of the committee to ask about an inquiry.

"It would not be before July because of commitments, but that is no time at all.

"We must not just wait for a reply and keep our fingers crossed and pray. The media attention we could get would be enormous and it would really open up the problem.

"It would set a precedent. And if an inquiry is refused, I imagine we would have to be given a reason, I am really hopeful."

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

In December the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction was launched at Westminster, highlighting the misery of tranquilliser addiction.

Headed by Mr 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 realise how it destroys lives.

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

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