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Scunthorpe Telegraph
Front Page Lead
Monday, May 28, 2001
by Catrin Williams

Bid to aid victims of addiction to prescribed tranquillisers

A man, who claims he saw his doctor for toothache and spent the next 14 years unaware he had a potentially-lethal tranquilliser addiction, has set up a web site to help fellow sufferers.

Ray Nimmo says he was prescribed a 'poisonous' cocktail of more than a dozen drugs known as benzodiazepines to fight spiralling symptoms including fits of rage, migraines, nausea, a five-stone weight gain, tinnitus and blurred vision.

The former company director, of Bottesford, said it took a second medical opinion just three years ago to discover the sedatives were making him suicidally depressed – and life a living hell for him and his family.

"I used to think about ways to commit suicide," said the father-of-one. "It was not until 1998 that I realised it was the drugs."

Mr Nimmo (49) weaned himself off them but still suffers ill-health he links to withdrawing from the pills, and cannot work.

Today – via the internet – he advises others across the globe who believe they too have fallen into the 'tranquilliser trap'.

Up to 1.5-million people across Britain take such pills, which include diazepam, and which were launched as a wonder cure for anxiety in the 1960s.

They have since been linked to damage of the brain and nervous system.

And, according to Government figures, the Class-C drugs kill more people than Class-A heroin, ecstasy and cocaine combined.

Mr Nimmo is calling for GPs to warn patients of the dangers of taking them long-term.

"It is a major problem," he said. "They should not be prescribed for more than two to four weeks in cases of anxiety or insomnia and definitely not for depression."

Mr Nimmo has also written to Prime Minister Tony Blair requesting special clinics to meet tranquilliser addicts' specific needs.

But South Humber Health Authority's director of primary care Dr Brian Crompton has defended local GPs' track record on prescribing benzodiazepines.

He said: "Any initiative to provide counselling and help people addicted to prescription drugs or indeed drugs of any kind is most laudable.

"It would, however, be most unjust to generalise and blame all GPs for some people's addiction to prescribed drugs.

"The vast majority of GPs locally are extremely cautious about prescribing such drugs. This is clearly evidenced by the number of patients who choose to misuse benzodiazepines who ring the health authority requesting help in finding a GP because they can't find one themselves willing to prescribe these drugs.

"The health authority is, of course, unable to dictate to any GP what to prescribe any given patient. What a GP prescribes to a patient is clearly a matter between these two individuals."

Dr Crompton added: "Benzodiazepines, particularly, can be addictive if taken over prolonged periods.

"While these drugs do have recognised therapeutic use, they also require careful monitoring and prolonged use will require a gradual withdrawal programme.

"A great deal of work has gone on locally to decrease the amount of benzodiazepines prescribed and local GPs are extremely supportive of this initiative."

Access Mr Nimmo's website by logging onto www.benzo.org.uk

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