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MEACHER TO HELP TRANQUILLISER ADDICTS
November 15, 2002
by Janice Barker
Michael Meacher MP
The case of a pitiful young woman addicted to prescribed drugs has prompted Government minister Michael Meacher to take up her cause.
He has backed local tranquilliser addicts battling for better treatment from health services.
Mr Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, is so concerned he has written to his colleague John Hutton, Health Minister, to highlight the problems.
And, he says there are 8,000 long term involuntary addicts in Oldham alone.
He adds: "I feel very strongly that something has to be done to highlight the problems about such involuntary addiction because I have concerns about how Benzodiazepine addicts, and addicts of other tranquillisers, are often described as being in need of mental health treatment."
And he asks: "Is it not true that many doctors blame erratic behaviour, sometimes displayed during withdrawal, on mental illness as opposed to problems associated with the reduction of the chemical?"
He outlines to Mr Hutton how a young woman has sought help from him after being addicted to Zopiclone, used to treat insomnia.
The only treatment she has been offered is a place on a psychiatric ward, and he adds: "She contacts my office in a pitiful state almost every day.
"Reasons for refusing her treatment in the past have been as flimsy as 'she never turns up for appointments, she displays abusive and erratic behaviour' - all symptoms usually displayed by addicts needing treatment."
Mr Meacher wants to know if any Oldham doctors, or any doctor in the country, been disciplined for poor prescribing of Benzodiazepines and other tranquillisers. And he adds: "Considering the amount of people addicted in my constituency, I presume the answer is no.
"I have many constituents who have been involuntarily addicted to Benzodiazepines for more than 10 years. I know of three cases of constituents who have been addicted for more than 30 years.
"That is at odds with the two to four weeks short-term treatment supposedly adhered to."
Mr Meacher, who has been contacted by tranquilliser campaigner Barry Haslam of Uppermill, is calling for a protocol to help people withdraw from the drugs and calls for the full figures of all people on Benzodiazepines throughout the country.
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