BRITAIN’S ACCIDENTAL DRUG ADDICTS
Help is needed
Guidelines state that Benzodiazepine tranquilisers should not be prescribed for more than four weeks – but Yours magazine is leading on the story that about 1.1million UK adults, mainly over 50, are addicted to benzos and that little is being done to help them.
MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Drug Misuse Group have become so concerned about the scale of benzo and other prescription drug misuse that a public inquiry is underway.
Dr Brian Iddon, MP for Bolton South East , who is chairing the inquiry told Yours: “This problem should have gone away by now – but in fact it’s worse. GPs are still not following the prescribing guidelines on this. I’m not disputing these drugs can be useful… but in some areas they are still giving them out like Smarties.”
In 2006, some 10,768,910 prescriptions were given to patients, including Yours reader Kathleen Dunion. Kathleen said, “I feel they’ve (benzos) robbed me of my life. The past 35 years have been misery. I’ve been suicidal at some points and felt I just couldn’t go on. It’s only the thought of my family that that stopped me. Last time I felt like ending it, I saw the faces of my two great grandsons and knew I had to go on for them. I love them so much. I just want to be the old me and for my children and grandchildren to have the real me back too.”
Despite the scale of tranquiliser addiction in the UK, dedicated withdrawal programmes for benzos are almost non existent. The only NHS project in England, set up in 2005 by the Oldham Drug and Alcohol Service, receives £55,000 a year in funding compared to the £1.67 million set aside for dealing with illegal drug users in the area.
Tess, 78, is one of the lucky ones. She was admitted to hospital for a two-week withdrawal programme. “The withdrawal symptoms were terrible, my whole body tensed up and it was as if I had a vice around my head. But in other ways it was like a magic wand had been waved over me,” she said. “I could concentrate again for the first time in 21 years, I got to know my children all over again and on Mother’s Day they sent me a wonderful card saying ‘We’re so glad we’ve got our real mum back’.”
Jim Dobbin, MP chairman of the parliamentary All Party Action Group on Involuntary Tranquiliser Addiction, added that “The Department of Health should look at the Oldham project for benzodiazepine withdrawal and every Primary Care Trust should have a facility or support system in place. People think this was all sorted out 20 years ago but nothing could be further from the truth”.
For more information, contact Natalie Trice