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The Tranquilliser Trap

Panorama, BBC1, Sunday 13 May, 2001


Panorama Trailer:

It could be you, your mother, your brother or even your granny. You feel anger, panic, lethargy. You can't get out of bed. You're hooked. But the drugs you're taking haven't come from the street; they came from your doctor. Panorama asks: Is it acceptable that in Britain today over a million people are hooked on tranquillisers? Returning with a new series Panorama exposes the truth. Sunday at 10.20 on BBC1.

Panorama Press Release:

Shelley Jofre investigates the spectre of tranquilliser dependency, and questions why, despite strict guidelines on their prescription, people in Britain are still prescribed them long-term.

Seventeen and a half million benzodiazepine tranquilliser prescriptions were issued by GPs in 1999 and it is estimated that around one million patients are now hooked on the drugs.

Panorama reveals that most patients are on repeat prescriptions and that many of them have been prescribed them for years rather than the recommended 4-week maximum.

The drugs used in the short-term are beneficial for a range of symptoms. But it is widely accepted that if these drugs are prescribed beyond the 4-week maximum, they can in fact be harmful to health.

This was the warning that was given to the nation's GP's by the government thirteen years ago – not to prescribe these drugs, including Valium and Mogadon, for more than four weeks, and not to provide them on repeat prescriptions.

Shelley Jofre asks why GPs and psychiatrists have routinely ignored warnings about side effects and addiction. Benzodiazepines are being prescribed to all ages, from teenagers to elderly patients, across the UK. But there is little or no provision for those who want to come off the drugs.

Watch The Tranquilliser Trap on BBC1 at 2220 BST Sunday 13 May or via a live stream on the Panorama Site. For more information, visit: The Panorama web site.

Production Team:
Reporter Shelley Jofre
Producer Murdoch Rodgers
Assistant Producers Tom Anstiss & Rob Cole



Former Oldham addict features in BBC probe
Oldham Evening Chronicle, Thursday, May 10, 2001
by Janice Barker

An Oldham woman will describe the hell of tranquilliser addiction in a high-profile television programme on Sunday.

And Oldham campaigner Barry Haslam has been helping researchers at "Panorama", the BBC's flagship investigative programme, to look at the damage benzodiazepines can cause to those addicted to them.

Suzanne, a 21-year-old mother of two, was interviewed at her Springhead home by "Panorama" journalists.

She has already described, in an Oldham Chronicle interview, how she was prescribed tranquillisers when she was only 15, and became addicted. Her partner left her after three years when she became a zombie who could not care for her first child.

However, with help from her mother, she has weaned herself off benzodiazepines, and now has a second child and an independent life.

Suzanne is angry at the ease with which she was prescribed such addictive drugs for so long, and said: "The only reason I agreed to appear is to help other people who may not know what is happening to them. The programme must warn people before it is too late for them to get help for their addiction."

The BBC-1 programme highlights how, 13 years ago, the Government warned GPs not to prescribe benzodiazepine tranquillisers – including Valium and Mogadon – for more than four weeks, because of possible dangers.

"Panorama" will investigate an apparent boom in the tranquilliser trade, questioning why, despite the strict guidelines on their issue, people are still prescribed them long-term.

A spokesman for the Royal College of GPs tells the programme: "It's potentially a million people on drugs which, maybe, only a tiny percentage of them need to be on, and that's not good for this country."

Mr Haslam, from Uppermill, who has been disabled after addiction to tranquillisers, said: "I really hope this makes people in government sit up and listen. Addiction has been going on for 40 years."

"Panorama" also tells the story of the millionaire businessman who, following the collapse of his business interests during a nine-year Mogadon addiction, has spent the past seven years investigating the drug, uncovering some remarkable revelations.

Mr Ian Caldwell, from Perthshire, is now the only person taking legal action against drug manufacturers Roche Products, after a mass civil action by users collapsed in 1991.

Later this year he goes to Scotland's highest court, the Court of Session, in Edinburgh, to fight an attempt by Roche to have the case struck out.

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