Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Withdrawal Services Campaign Support

"Gillian Merron MP is the new Minister of State for Public Health (appointed 8th June 2009). In two recent answers to Parliamentary questions she indicated that the Department of Health is about to undertake a review of its policy on addiction to prescription drugs and over the counter medicines, including tranquillisers.

This is an important point in our campaign for tranquilliser withdrawal services. The APPGITA has requested to be directly involved in the review process, and I have asked the Department of Health to listen to the advice of Professor Heather Ashton, Pam Armstrong of CITA and Una Corbett of BAT.

I would like to ask people to write directly to Gillian Merron MP at the Department of Health in support of our campaign, and also to lobby their own MP to write to Gillian Merron.

Jim Dobbin MP"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Parliamentary Question - 20 July 2009

Column 1006W

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which (a) policy advisers, (b) special advisers, (c) other individuals and (d) other groups have provided advice to his Department on the subject of tranquillisers in the last two years; and what expertise each has to advise on that subject. [264896]

Gillian Merron: The Department is not aware of any advice given by policy advisers, special advisers, other individuals or advisory groups specifically in relation to tranquilisers. The Commission on Human Medicines, the UK Health Ministers’ independent safety experts and advisers, provides scientific advice on all medicines for human use before a product is given a marketing authorisation or if any post marketing safety issue arise.

Over the coming months the Department will be reviewing its policy on addiction to prescriptions and over the counter (OTC) drugs, including tranquilisers.

20 July 2009 : Column 1009W
This review will identify where and how policy should be advanced, so that those addicted to prescription or OTC drugs receive high quality, effective services.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Parliamentary Question - 16 July 2009

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Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will assess the efficacy of his policy on the prescription of tranquillisers in limiting the number of medicines prescribed. [276005]

Gillian Merron: The addiction to prescription drugs, such as benzodiazepines, is a very important issue and a number of steps have been taken to tackle this problem with the main focus on advice to prevent such dependence occurring in the first place, by warning general practitioners of the potential side-effects of prescribed medicines and the dangers of involuntary addiction to benzodiazepines.

Over the coming months the Department will be reviewing its policy on addiction to prescription and over the (OTC) drugs, including tranquillisers. This review will identify where and how policy should advanced, so that those addicted to prescription or OTC drugs receive high quality, effective services.

EHRC Submission



By Michael Behan, Parliamentary Researcher to

Jim Dobbin MP, Chair of the APPG on ITA

Monday 20th July 2009

  1. Introduction

Thank you for your letter of 19th June in which you invited the APPG to submit information. This is a submission from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction (APPG on ITA) to the EHRC providing information on aspects of tranquilliser addiction, with regard to discrimination by the Department of Health and Department of Work and Pensions against involuntary tranquilliser addicts, on the basis of their illness and disability.

  1. Tranquillisers

Benzodiazepine tranquillisers such as Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam (Ativan) and Nitrazepam (Mogadon) were introduced by the pharmaceutical companies in the 1960s with exaggerated claims for their indications, efficacy and safety. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and toxic. At any given time in the UK there are an estimated 1.5 million benzodiazepine addicts.

‘Z’ tranquillisers such as Zopiclone were introduced in the 1990s as a safer option but have proved to be as bad or worse. An estimated 0.5 million people are addicted to Z drugs.

Tranquilliser side-effects occur during addiction as a result of the build up of toxic chemicals within the body. These side-effects are physical, psychological and neurological. They are painful, intense, bizarre and progressive; an addict may suffer 20-30 different side-effects contemporaneously.

If tranquilliser withdrawal is undertaken, additional withdrawal symptoms will occur. When the addict has reduced their dosage to zero, they may be left with numerous symptoms of long-term or permanent damage. This is known as the Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome.

Tranquilliser addiction is a treatable illness - it is possible to withdraw from tranquillisers. Withdrawal has been scientifically studied by Professor H. Ashton, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychopharmacology at the University of Newcastle, who ran a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic from 1982-94 and designed a tapered tranquilliser withdrawal system. That withdrawal system has been produced in a booklet form, “Protocol for the Treatment of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal” and is used successfully and worldwide.

Safe and successful tranquilliser withdrawal can take from 6 months to 2 years. Patients need large amounts of support and reassurance during withdrawal, sometimes on a daily basis.

The benzodiazepine clinical trials show that the problems were well known to the manufacturers from the 1960s. For commercial reasons the negative information was withheld and benzodiazepines were marketed, particularly in the U.K., as a wonder drug, non-addictive, very safe, with few side-effects, and appropriate for almost any medical condition.

Benzodiazepines were granted full product licences in the U.K. without any assessment of safety or efficacy. Licences were issued by the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM), which was then a part of the Department of Health. Benzodiazepines were wildly over-prescribed as a result of a promotional campaign by the manufacturers and became firmly entrenched in prescribing practice. The highly addictive properties of benzodiazepine mean that even a short initial prescription can result in a patient becoming an unknowing and involuntary addict for many years or decades.

During the 1990s the pharmaceutical manufacturers gradually conceded, in their prescribing information, many of the previously denied problems with their drugs. Prescribing guidelines limit use to 2-4 weeks. However doctors have continued to prescribe at very high levels. According to a recent answer by the Department of Health to a Parliamentary Question by Jim Dobbin M.P., there were over 17 million tranquilliser prescriptions in 2008, a 2% increase on 2007. Prescribers are ignoring the manufacturers’ warning, such as the 2-4 week limit, and have perpetuated the tranquilliser problem.

The manufacturers have taken no corrective action; they are happy to sit back and continue to sell benzodiazepines and ‘Z’ tranquillisers at whatever demand level occurs.

By Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts, we mean normal people who have become addicted to prescription tranquillisers through no fault of their own. They have been introduced to these drugs by their doctor without proper warnings of the danger involved, of addiction and side-effects, and have not made an informed choice.

Tranquilliser withdrawal is a complex and painful process and many addicts are unable to withdraw without expert information and support. No treatment is provided by the Department of Health for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction, with the exception of two workers in Oldham and three in Belfast. Small tranquilliser withdrawal charities also exist, such as CITA (Council for Information on Tranquillisers and Anti-Depressants) in Liverpool, and BAT (Battle Against Tranquillisers) in Bristol.

  1. Discrimination by the Department of Health

This is the first part of the complaint - that the Department of Health systematically discriminates against Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts by refusing them medical treatment for their illness. It is an illness that the Heath Service has created, through over prescribing by doctors, by not enforcing guidelines and by poor regulation.

The effect of the discrimination of refusing treatment is to abandon patients to continued addiction. Like all drug addictions, tranquilliser addiction is misery for the addicts and they suffer loss of health, jobs, marriage and homes. Tranquilliser addiction is a progressive illness, the longer it continues the worse it becomes. Over time, tolerance and dose escalation can occur, side effects can increase, withdrawal becomes more difficult for each year of addiction, the post-withdrawal period will become longer and the rate of permanent damage will increase.

The Department of Health has resisted the call for tranquilliser withdrawal services for over 20 years and this is well documented. From 1997 the “Beat the Benzos” campaign lobbied for services, led by Phil Woolas M.P., now a Home Office Minister. This is recorded in a long correspondence, in Parliamentary Questions, Early Day Motions, a Parliamentary Debate in 1999, and a BBC Panorama programme.

In the last 18 months Jim Dobbin MP formed the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction (ITA). The APPG has particularly focussed on requesting treatment services and again this is recorded in Parliamentary Questions, EDMs, correspondence with Ministers and unsuccessful requests for meetings.

The Department of Health response is to say that the 152 PCTs are responsible for providing tranquilliser withdrawal services. The Department of Health does not provide a budget to the PCT for tranquilliser services, and no targets are set, thereby ensuring that, in practice, no services can be established.

Also the Department of Health does not recognise or treat the tranquilliser protracted withdrawal syndrome suffered by many former tranquilliser addicts who have withdrawn by themselves, or with the aid of the charities. This is another form of discrimination, which results in former addicts having to try to treat themselves for a condition that can last many years and can be extremely debilitating, and can be permanent in nature.

  1. Discrimination by the Department for Work and Pensions

The second major discrimination against involuntary tranquilliser addicts comes from the DWP, who discriminate in two areas; benefit payment and back to work assistance.

Involuntary tranquilliser addicts often become unable to work as a result of the effects of their addiction. However, they have great difficulty obtaining appropriate benefits from local DWP offices and at tribunals or appeals. For benefit purposes the DWP does not accept that there is such an illness.

Involuntary tranquilliser addicts often have to try and argue their case from first principles. They are required to prove, to a high standard, that there is such a condition, that they suffer from it and certain symptoms have resulted. They often suffer from debilitating symptoms as a result of the drugs. Cognitive impairment and agoraphobia, for example, are very common in tranquilliser addiction, withdrawal, and post-withdrawal. DWP tribunals often rely for medical advice on retired G.P.s who may have spent their own careers over-prescribing tranquillisers and therefore not accept that they are addictive or toxic.

Regarding back to work assistance there is no special programme, rehabilitation or help for withdrawn involuntary tranquilliser addicts who want to return to work. The recent implementation by the DWP of the Welfare Reform Bill has increased discrimination by explicitly excluding ITA from the regime introduced. Pilot projects for only heroin and crack addicts have been set up. In correspondence the DWP ministers have said that programmes may be extended to ITA if the heroin and crack pilots are successful.

  1. Discrimination by statistics

A third form of discrimination against ITA is a virtual prohibition across government on the collection of any information or data on the subject. For example, no government department has ever counted the number of involuntary tranquilliser addicts, the number of ex-addicts, the numbers permanently disabled, the numbers on both tranquillisers and Disability Benefit, the numbers of tranquilliser damaged babies or the number of babies born addicted to tranquillisers.

In comparison there are mountains of official statistics on illegal drug addicts. For example a 200 page statistical report on drug use has just been produced by the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO), commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

  1. Human Rights Issues

We also believe there are Human Rights aspects to involuntary tranquilliser addiction. Tranquillisers have very limited medical use, and they do not cure any illnesses. The maximum claim now made is that they can alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety for a number of weeks.

The overwhelming reason that doctors prescribe tranquillisers is to feed the addictions that they have created. In effect tranquilliser addiction can be a form of torture as patients are slowly and painfully poisoned without their knowledge or consent.

Between 1990 and 1996 the Home Office collected statistics for benzodiazepine related deaths as part of a statistical summary of controlled drug deaths. The statistics show Benzo related deaths to be 300 per annum, during this period they exceed the deaths for all class A drugs added together. Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University has calculated that these deaths when added to benzo-related Road Traffic Accidents give a total of 17,000 benzo-related deaths.

The tranquilliser problem has existed for nearly fifty years. Governments from both parties have failed to take action and have allowed the problem to continue.

  1. Legislation

I believe that an involuntary tranquilliser addict falls clearly within the definition of a Disabled Person as defined by Statutory Instrument 1996 No 1455, The Disability Discrimination (Meaning of Disability) Regulations 1996 Para. 3.


3. – (1). Subject to paragraph (2) below, addiction to alcohol, nicotine or any other substance is to be treated as not amounting to an impairment for the purposes of the Act.

(2) Paragraph (1) above does not apply to addiction which was originally the result of administration of medically prescribed drugs or other medical treatment.”

  1. Conclusion

This submission has identified five different areas of discrimination by government against involuntary tranquilliser addicts.

  1. Exclusion from appropriate medical treatment by the Department of Health.

  2. Failure to treat or recognise the tranquilliser post-withdrawal syndrome by the Department of Health.

  3. Non-recognition of the illness of Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction or Post Withdrawal Syndrome in processing benefit claims. (DWP)

  4. Failure to provide back to work support or rehabilitation for tranquilliser addicts and ex-addicts, particularly in the arrangements introduced under the Welfare Reform Bill. (DWP)

  5. Failure to collect statistics on ITA, by all departments.

Additionally, we believe that there are human rights issues.

The discrimination is large scale, long-standing and deliberate. Government Departments are aware that they are discriminating but reject the available solutions. The discrimination has disastrous effects on the lives of those affected. There is also a social cost to this discrimination in that those affected often become unable to work and have to live on benefit with no productive output.

Statutory Instrument 1996 No. 1455

The Disability Discrimination (Meaning of Disability) Regulations 1996

© Crown Copyright 1996

1996 No. 1455


The Disability Discrimination (Meaning of Disability) Regulations 1996


4th June 1996

Laid before Parliament

6th June 1996

Coming into force

30th July 1996

In exercise of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State by paragraphs 1(2), 2(4), 3(2) and (3), 4(2)(a) and 5(a) of Schedule 1 to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995[1], the Secretary of State for Social Security hereby makes the following Regulations:

Citation and commencement
1. These Regulations may be cited as the Disability Discrimination (Meaning of Disability) Regulations 1996 and shall come into force on 30th July 1996.

2. In these Regulations—

"the Act" means the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and

"addiction" includes a dependency.

3.—(1) Subject to paragraph (2) below, addiction to alcohol, nicotine or any other substance is to be treated as not amounting to an impairment for the purposes of the Act.

(2) Paragraph (1) above does not apply to addiction which was originally the result of administration of medically prescribed drugs or other medical treatment.

Other conditions not to be treated as impairments
4.—(1) For the purposes of the Act the following conditions are to be treated as not amounting to impairments:—

(a) a tendency to set fires,

(b) a tendency to steal,

(c) a tendency to physical or sexual abuse of other persons,

(d) exhibitionism, and

(e) voyeurism.

(2) Subject to paragraph (3) below for the purposes of the Act the condition known as seasonal allergic rhinitis shall be treated as not amounting to an impairment.

(3) Paragraph (2) above shall not prevent that condition from being taken into account for the purposes of the Act where it aggravates the effect of another condition.

Tattoos and piercings
5. For the purposes of paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Act a severe disfigurement is not to be treated as having a substantial adverse effect on the ability of the person concerned to carry out normal day-to-day activities if it consists of—

(a) a tattoo (which has not been removed), or

(b) a piercing of the body for decorative or other non-medical purposes, including any object attached through the piercing for such purposes.

Babies and Young Children
6. For the purposes of the Act where a child under six years of age has an impairment which does not have an effect falling within paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 1 to the Act that impairment is to be taken to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability of that child to carry out normal day-to-day activities where it would normally have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability of a person aged 6 years or over to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Alistair Burt

Minister of State, Department of Social Security

4th June 1996

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letter re Welfare Reform Bill

Thursday 9th July 2009

The Right Honourable Jim Knight M.P.

Department for Work and Pensions

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter of 30 June 2009. My question was: in what circumstances would the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill be extended to Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts. Your answer is that you will gauge from your pilots with heroin and crack addicts whether the new regime is likely to have a positive impact on other groups of drug users.

Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts are normal people who have become addicted to prescription tranquillisers through no fault of their own. They have been introduced to these drugs by doctors without proper warnings of the dangers involved, of addiction and side effects. These people have had no opportunity to make an informed choice. They are often left on these drugs for many years and decades and as a result are often unable to work. Withdrawal is a complex and painful process and many tranquilliser addicts are unable to withdraw without expert information and support. This help is not provided by the NHS. I am therefore suggesting tranquilliser withdrawal services should be provided to ITA under the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts are a completely different group of people from heroin and crack addicts. ITA are involuntary addicts of prescribed drugs, heroin and crack addicts are voluntary addicts of illegal drugs.

Therefore I believe that your approach is misconceived in that you will not be able to draw valid conclusions of the impact of the new Welfare Reform Bill regime upon Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts from the pilots conducted with voluntary drug addicts. You are not comparing like with like.

In any case we already know the impact of withdrawal treatment upon ITA. Success rates are high for withdrawal treatment. David McKeown for example, the NHS’s only prescribed medication nurse, recorded his work in the Falls Family Doctors practice in Belfast from December 2006 to March 2008. Complete cessation was achieved by 57% of patients who were on long term tranquilliser prescriptions. The coercion and sanctions component of the Welfare Reform Bill is not necessary for ITA as they are normal people and are highly motivated to be rehabilitated back to work. Treatment of ITA is cost-effective. We have already provided the DWP with estimates of costs from the tranquilliser withdrawal charity CITA (Council for Information on Tranquillisers) of £2,000 per client for withdrawal treatment.

The numbers involved in ITA are large, an estimated 2 million people are on long-term prescriptions for benzodiazepine tranquillisers (1.5m) and Z tranquillisers (0.5m.) This is a larger target group, and the potential number of people who could be rehabilitated back to work, if the scheme were successfully applied to ITA, would be much larger than for illegal drugs.

Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts are suffering from an illness created by the NHS. They then suffer discrimination on the basis of that illness in that the NHS will treat people addicted to illegal drugs but not those addicted to these prescribed drugs. The implementation of the Welfare Reform Bill is extending discrimination by including voluntary drug addicts but excluding involuntary tranquilliser addicts from the scheme.

Furthermore the provision of future assistance from the Welfare Reform Bill for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts has been made dependent upon the performance in the pilot projects of voluntary drug addicts, a notoriously unreliable group of people.

I would like to suggest that the way forward is to set up a Welfare Reform Bill pilot project designed to assist ITA by providing withdrawal services followed by rehabilitation back to work. This could be based on the Belfast prescribed medication clinic and the existing tranquilliser withdrawal charities in Bristol (Battle Against Tranquillisers) and Liverpool (CITA).

This would enable large groups of people to receive the treatment they need and would enable many to return to work. It would save patients from many years of addiction and its effects, the loss of health, jobs, homes, and marriages. It would also achieve the large saving to the taxpayer that the Welfare Reform Bill is designed to achieve.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Dobbin MP

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Reply to Ministerial Response to "Addiction to Medicines" Debate

1st July 2009

The Rt. Hon Phil Hope MP

Minister of State for Care Services

Dear Phil,

I am chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction (ITA). In reply to your ministerial response in the Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall, Tuesday 16th June 2009, on “Addiction to Medicines”, I would like to make the following points.

  1. Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

In the debate both Brian Iddon M.P. and Greg Mullholland M.P. specifically referred to Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction as a substantial part of the overall problem of addiction to medicines.

In your response you do not acknowledge the existence of the ITA group. Instead you refer to “constituents… with experience of misuse.” Involuntary Tranquilliser Addicts strongly object to being called drug misusers. “Misuse” suggests blame on the part of the patient. It categorises them with people who misuse illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. This issue arose before in 2006/7 when the then Health Minister, Rosie Winterton M.P., used this word in correspondence with Barry Haslam of Oldham. Michael Meacher M.P. complained on behalf of Mr Haslam, with the outcome that Rosie Winterton M.P. wrote a letter of apology and agreed it was unhelpful to apply such terminology (Your ref. P.O.00000175712 17/3/07).

Involuntary Tranquilliser Addition refers to patients who have become addicted to tranquillisers through no fault of their own. They have been introduced to the drugs by their doctors without proper warnings and have been unable to make an informed choice. In your response you discuss the amount of money the government spends on drug misuse as if part of that money is spent on ITA. The reality is that none of the drug misuse treatment budget is spent on ITA. Tranquilliser addicts are excluded from treatment and none of your remarks on the effectiveness of treatment apply to ITA.

Brian Iddon informed the debate that 1.5 million people are addicted to benzodiazepine drugs, if ‘Z’ tranquillisers are included the total is around 2m.

  1. The MHRA

Your description of the role of the MHRA is incomplete. Historically the MHRA, and its predecessor organisations, have a large responsibility for the involuntary tranquilliser problem. The Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) issued Product Licences in the 60’s and 70’s for benzodiazepines with no assessment of safety or efficacy. Data sheets were issued with inadequate warnings on toxicity and addiction. Patient complaints were dismissed as anecdotal. UK benzodiazepine data sheets have been, and still are, 10-15 years behind those issued in the USA, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia.

Post-marketing surveillance by the MHRA regulators has been poor and relies on a discredited Yellow Card System. It is not a matter of strategies. The Chairman of the MHRA, Professor Sir Alastair Breckenbridge, told the Health Select Committee:

“One cannot say what the incidence of an adverse reaction is. You cannot tell that from Yellow Card reports.”

(Q802, Health Committee Enquiry, 2004/5 “The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry”)

“In view of the failings of the MHRA, we recommend a fundamental review of the organisation in order to ensure that safe and effective medicines with necessary prescribing constraints are licensed.” (HSC Report V.1. P5)

Regarding the regulatory powers of the MHRA which you mention, these have not been used in the case of tranquillisers, and the manufacturers Roche Products and John Wyeth.

  1. Internet Pharmacies

As far as involuntary tranquilliser addiction is concerned, internet pharmacies are a secondary issue. ITA is created within the Health Service. Later that addiction may be fed by the internet but the original addiction is created by Health Service doctors. Large scale tranquilliser addiction existed before the internet.

  1. Controlling Prescribing

You listed various mechanisms and publications used to “promote and support high quality clinically effective prescribing… to ensure patient safety.”

A similar list of mechanisms was read out in 1999 by the then Health Minister, John Hutton M.P., in a debate on “Benzodiazepines” also held in Westminster Hall. John Hutton assured “that we are acting to reduce high levels of prescribing.” (Hansard 7.12.99).

In the period 1998-2009 tranquilliser prescriptions have increased from some 13 million p.a. to 17 million p.a. (Answer by Dawn Primarolo to P.Q. 274692. 18/5/09). Clearly the mechanisms did not work for John Hutton and are unlikely to begin to work now.

The Department of Health abdicates responsibility for controlling the large scale mis-prescribing of tranquillisers:

“We expect individual prescribers to be aware of the potential for addiction and to ensure that medicines are prescribed appropriately, depending on a patients individual needs.”

(Phil Hope M.P., Westminster Hall, 16/6/09)

The Department of Health tries to nominate the General Medical Council (G.M.C.) to take on the responsibility of controlling prescribing. The GMC has never accepted that responsibility. The GMC may look at individual cases. In individual cases a doctor prescribing outside the guidelines is not considered negligent if other doctors are prescribing in the same way (the “Bolitho” defence). Mis-prescribing of tranquillisers is so common that the individual mis-prescriber becomes legitimised. This defence applies both before the GMC and is successfully used by doctors in civil litigation cases where patients have alleged negligent prescribing by their doctors.

The GMC does not look at the large-scale systemic mis-prescribing that underpins ITA. The GMC is not responsible for enforcing prescribing guidelines and does not claim to do so. The Department of Health has not asked the GMC to enforce prescribing guidelines. This is an imaginary responsibility that the Department of Health invokes when avoiding its own responsibility for controlling prescribing.

  1. Research

The two areas of research you mention are understanding addiction and treatment. As far as involuntary tranquilliser addiction, these two areas have been researched by Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University. Professor Ashton has developed a system of tapered withdrawal and produced a handbook “Protocol for the treatment of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.” This has been used successfully worldwide, and has been developed by the U.K. tranquilliser withdrawal charities CITA (Council for Information on Tranquilliser and Anti-Depressants)and BAT (Battle Against Tranquillisers).

We do not know the mechanisms whereby patients are damaged physically and mentally by these drugs. Research is needed into the long-term and permanent damage caused by tranquilliser use.

  1. Treatment of Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

No treatment is provided by the National Health Service for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction. Patients who become addicted are excluded from treatment and left to fend for themselves.

The Department of Health policy is to make repeated declarations that treatment for ITA is the responsibility of the Primary Care Trusts. However the Department of Health provides the PCT’s with no budget and no targets for this service, thereby ensuring that there can be no treatment provided.

There is no reason why ITA should be the responsibility of PCT’s. For illicit drugs there is a National Treatment Agency, National Drug Strategy and National Budget. It should be the same for ITA.

Our recommendations for treatment are:

  1. A national network of local specialised tranquilliser withdrawal clinics

  2. NHS funded local support groups

  3. NHS funded 24 hour national tranquilliser helpline

  4. Regional residential clinics for severe addiction

  5. Training for specialised tranquilliser withdrawal counsellors.

  1. Statistics

On 18 May 2009, Health Minister Dawn Primarolo M.P. answered Parliamentary Question 274692 and gave the total 2008 tranquilliser prescriptions for the UK as:

Benzodiazepines 11,439,000

Z Drugs 5,665,000

Giving a total of 17,104,000 tranquilliser prescriptions for 2008. This is an increase of 2% on 2007. This is about the prescribing level of 1992.

The Department of Health have created a smokescreen of imaginary responsibilities for various groups regarding tranquilliser prescription controls and for tranquilliser withdrawal. None of these responsibilities exist in the real world. The various groups, the MHRA/GMC/PCT, do not accept these responsibilities and do not take any appropriate action. Phil Woolas MP said in 1999 in the first Westminster Hall debate;

“The story of benzodiazepines is of awesome proportions and has been described as a national scandal. The impact is so large that it is too big for Governments, regulatory authorities and the pharmaceutical industry to address head on, so the scandal has been swept under the carpet…

We need joined-up policy. We need recognition of harm done to thousands of people, robust guidelines that are forcefully promoted and a review of the classification of Benzodiazepines. We need stringent support for addicts in the NHS, social services and the voluntary sector, to ensure that the withdrawal from such drugs is beneficial and does not increase the pain and suffering of many addicts.”

(Hansard 7.12.1999).

Yours sincerely,

Jim Dobbin MP