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GPs 'CREATING AN ARMY OF JUNKIES'
February 6, 2004
by Suzy Austin
Doctors were accused yesterday of turning millions of people into junkies hooked on tranquillisers. Prescription drugs are destroying more lives across Europe than heroin and crack cocaine, said MEP Chris Davies.
He is demanding EU action to curb the use of 'benzos' - benzodiazepines such as Valium, Librium, Ativan and Temazepam. Widely prescribed by doctors as sedatives for anxiety, such drugs have created 1.2 million long-term addicts in Britain alone. Dependence can start in a month, with side effects including aggression and insomnia.
Mr Davies said: 'Millions of people are being turned into lifelong addicts by doctors who continue to ignore prescribing guidelines. Because these people donít have to steal to fund their habit their plight goes largely unnoticed.'
Barry Haslam, whose hometown of Oldham is represented in Europe by Mr Davies, was addicted to prescription drugs for ten years. He was given Ativan after a breakdown and the dosage was gradually increased until he was taking 24 pills a day. The 60-year-old founder of the Beat The Benzos campaign said: 'If you're on heroin or crack there are places to go for help. But if you are a legal addict, there is nothing.'
Mr Haslam met EU Health Commissioner David Byrne to press for health warnings on packaging, similar to those for cigarettes. He also wants inspections of doctors' prescribing practices and 24-hour helplines across the EU.
A Call for EU Guidelines on the Prescribing of Benzodiazepines, Barry Haslam, February, 2004.
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