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Trust to enter talks on legal addiction
August 9, 2002
by Marina Berry
SADDLEWORTH campaigner Barry Haslam has taken his fight for a better deal for Oldham's legal drug addicts to the town's new health bosses.
And Oldham Primary Care Trust has pledged its support, promising help for the 8,000 people he says are hooked on drugs prescribed by their GP.
The offer came after Mr Haslam, a former benzodiazepine addict who is adamant the drugs wrecked his life, called for help.
Dr Ian Wilkinson, board member and chairman of the trust's professional executive committee, said trust representatives would meet with Tranx - the Oldham support group for people with an addiction to legal drugs.
But, he said, the long-term consequences of benzodiazepine addiction had not been proven, and many of the "common symptoms" suffered by addicts were the reason they had been prescribed the drugs in the first place.
Those symptoms include suicidal intentions, aggression, depression and insomnia.
Dr Wilkinson admitted he would not be surprised to find Oldham, with its high level of socio-economic deprivation, had a high level of benzodiazepine addiction, although it was difficult to estimate numbers because of the way prescriptions are recorded.
And he said that although guidelines on prescribing such drugs were welcome: "As professionals, GPs must have the freedom to prescribe outside guidelines, to make sure all patients' needs were being met."
Mr Haslam approached the trust to find out what plans it had to "wean people out of addiction and back in to society".
He also wants to know what the trust is doing to make sure GPs prescribe benzodiazepines on only a short-tern basis, and what legal action will be taken against GPs who deliberately ignore the guidelines.
Dr Wilkinson said: "We want to help people - that is what we are here for. The way forward is to arrange a meeting with Tranx so we can begin to thrash out some of these issues."
Oldham Chronicle, August 12, 2002
It will be good news for very many people in Oldham that the Oldham Primary Care Trust is to take a serious look at the problem of addiction to prescription drugs.
As Dr Ian Wilkinson said last week, the poverty and social problems endemic in parts of Oldham and blighting a great many people's lives, means that the borough probably has a high level of addiction.
The drugs are given to people who are in a sorry state of depression, brought on by problems associated with money, quality of life, work - or lack of it - or relationships et al, and certainly have a part to play.
But the number of people who have become addicted to the so-called cure for their depression and effectively exchange frying pan for is worryingly high and research into the problem by the PCT is welcome.
Dr Ian Wilkinson's ignorant and arrogant attitude is sadly all too typical and if he is prepared to prescribe outside the Guidelines then he must also be prepared to face the consequences of legal action.
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