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Oldham Chronicle
March 26, 2007

BARRY HASLAM has slammed past and present governments for brushing the prescription drugs problem under the carpet as research suggests tranquillisers are more harmful than cannabis.

He has branded it a disgrace that despite more than one million people in the UK being addicted to the drugs, no one is prepared to fund help organisations.

His comments come as scientists warn that the drug classification system in the UK is inadequate and should be scrapped.

A new ranking system has been produced which places the class C drug ahead of tobacco and several class A drugs, including Ecstasy.

And legal drugs, including tobacco and alcohol were included to provide familiar benchmarks. Alcohol was rated the fifth most dangerous substance, and tobacco ninth.

Heroin was rated as the most dangerous drug, followed by cocaine and barbiturates. Ecstasy, however, rated only 18th, while cannabis was 11th. Benzodiazepines - a class C drug - ranked 7th.

Mr Haslam said: "Benzodiazepines should be a class A drug not C. They cause so much damage both physically and emotionally but no one is being held to account.

"We are fortunate enough in Oldham to have some sort of support group."

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

He added: "Governments are failing to address the problem as it is such a big can of worms that they want to keep a lid on it.

"It is a deliberate policy of ignoring what is going on and it is a disgrace and criminal."

Oldham MPs Phil Woolas and Michael Meacher have been urging the Commons health select committee to hold an inquiry into the use of the drugs.

A decision was expected last week, but has been delayed.

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