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Health Memo

Dr Vernon Coleman

Sunday People, July 8, 2001

In the early 1970s I started a campaign to draw attention to the fact that millions of people were hooked on benzodiazepine tranquillisers – drugs such as Valium, Ativan and Mogadon.

I consistently claimed that these drugs were more addictive than heroin or cocaine. And after a long battle the Government issued a warning to doctors in 1988.

"Dr Vernon Coleman's articles, to which I refer with approval, raised concern about these important matters," said Edwina Currie, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, in the Commons.

Doctors were sternly told they should not give these drugs to patients for more than a few weeks. Sadly, as I have repeatedly pointed out, thousands of doctors are still ignoring this advice. And once again the problem is huge.

If your doctor wants you to take a benzodiazepine tranquilliser you can reduce your chances of getting hooked by following this advice:

  1. These drugs should not be taken for short periods – or intermittently I don't think any of these drugs should be taken for more than two weeks.

  2. The lowest possible dose should be used.

  3. Your doctor should review your treatment regularly (at least every two weeks). You should not collect these drugs on a repeat prescription.

  4. When it is time to stop the pills your treatment should be discontinued gradually and with care.

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