Probe continues for drug victims

Reporter: Janice Barker
Date published: 17 June 2010

A review of tranquilliser and prescription drug use will continue with the new Government, local campaigners have been relieved to hear.

The review is being carried out for the Department of Health and local campaigner Barry Haslam has already been interviewed by the lead researcher.

He says the results should be known by the end of the year.

Key issues being studied are a survey of addiction specialists, a review of published literature and a sample review of prescribing in primary care trusts to test how many may be overprescribing the drugs.

The review’s future was confirmed by new Public Health Minister Anne Milton at a meeting with Middleton and Heywood MP Jim Dobbin.

Mr Dobbin, who is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction (APPGITA), also raised the issue at Prime Minister’s question time yesterday.

He called on David Cameron to consider investing in support and withdrawal programmes for people addicted to prescribed drugs, to improve their lives and benefit the taxpayer.

Mr Dobbin told MPs that about 1.5 million people suffer from involuntary tranquilliser addiction as a result of medical prescribing, and it “completely ruins their lives”.

Mr Cameron said he had to wait for the review which would be studied carefully, but added: “I think there is a problem with the NHS which has treated the symptoms, rather than going for the cause.

He added: “We could probably reduce the level of painkillers and tranquillisers if we did more-through physiotherapy and other therapies to deal with the problem in the first place.”

Mr Haslam became a campaigner after weaning himself off Ativan after a 10-year addiction, and successfully campaigned for an Oldham withdrawal service, paid for by the primary care trust.

He also helps to run the Tranx support group at the Rock Street Centre in Oldham.

Mr Haslam said: “We were concerned about what would happen to the review, but this is really positive.

“Anne Milton is herself a former nurse and advocates using talking therapies as an alternative to taking drugs, and better training for medical staff for people with mental health problems.”

Meanwhile, Tranx will be visited by Bolton health service’s drug and alcohol strategic commissioning team in August, looking at how it operates.