MP’s warning over drug addiction

Date published: 29 January 2009

ADDICTION to over-the-counter or prescription medicines could get worse as the financial crisis continues, an MP has warned.

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas has written to Health Secretary Alan Johnson saying involuntary addiction to drugs such as valium, codeine and over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers is already causing untold damage and could get worse in the recession.

The warning comes days after a report by a group of MPs called for more research into addictions caused by the drugs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on involuntary drug abuse fears not enough help is available for sufferers and too many medics are not trained in spotting the addictions at an early stage.

Mr Woolas has given his backing to the report and highlighted Oldham as a pioneer in the field.

In his letter to Mr Johnson he said: “GPs are still over-prescribing benzodiazepine drugs. I agree with the report’s findings that primary care trusts should monitor prescription levels to highlight where there is over dependency”

Mr Woolas praised the local trust, NHS Oldham, which is leading the way in the prevention and cure of the problem. He added: “We have to break this vicious cycle of dependency. It continues to wreck lives and is costing the taxpayer millions. The all-party group’s report gives us a platform to push our case.”

A year-long study by the group fears not enough is done to help patients who develop dependencies. It warned drug treatment services are not geared to help individuals with a dependency on the drugs, meaning charities, support groups and online forums are frequently their only source of advice and help.

It called for medical students and nurses to be trained to recognise the symptoms of dependency. Furthermore, the Department of Health should force primary care trusts to provide appropriate treatment.