Review of drugs welcomed

Date published: 28 July 2009

THE promise of a government review of treatment for prescription drugs such as tranquillisers has delighted local campaigner Barry Haslam.

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron, who is due to visit Oldham soon, revealed the move in a written Commons answer to local MP Jim Dobbin.

She told the Heywood and Middleton MP, who is also chairman of the all party parliamentary group on addiction: “Over the coming months the Department will be reviewing its policy on addiction to prescription and over the counter drugs, including tranquillisers.

“This review will identify where and how policy should be advanced, so that those addicted to the drugs receive high quality, effective services.”

Barry Haslam, from Uppermill, who successfully campaigned for a local treatment service, financed by NHS Oldham, said: “I am very pleased with her courageous decision.

“It makes social, economic and common sense by Government and is a winner.

“Funding has got to be put in place so that legal drug addicts receive high quality and effective services.

“The issue needs a national strategy, under the umbrella of the NHS, with ring-fenced funding.”

The Oldham service is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Mr Haslam, himself a former tranquilliser addict, campaigned for years for the treatment service, contrasting the lack of one to the many services offered to illegal drug users.Mr Haslam believes he has uncovered Government regulations which class people addicted to legally prescribed drugs as disabled, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1966.

A section of the Act specifically excludes people impaired by addiction to alcohol, smoking or other substances, but does not exclude addiction which was originally the result of medically prescribed drugs or other medical treatment.

Mr Haslam said: “If this had been known we would not have had to spend 12 years campaigning.

“The Department for Work and Pensions have had people jumping through hoops, yet the majority should certainly have found it far simpler for them to prove their disability.”

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas said: “This is very good news. The Minister has listened to us and we now have an opportunity to design a policy, based on the Oldham model, which could potentially benefit millions.”

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