Temazepam controls 'too weak'

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S most popular sleeping pill, which has killed hundreds of young people across the country, will become a controlled drug this week.

Temazepam, which is taken by more than two million people, is the most widely abused, legal prescription drug in Britain. Hundreds of junkies have died or suffered amputations after mixing it with illegal drugs such as heroin. The Government is now re-classifying the sedative in an effort to reduce the death toll.

From tomorrow temazepam becomes a Schedule Three drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means possession without a valid prescription will be a criminal offence. Stricter import and export rules for manufacturers will also be introduced and pharmacists will be forced to store the drug in special safes. Ministers have already banned NHS doctors from prescribing temazepam in its most harmful gel-capsule form, which addicts melt down and inject.

Britain's temazepam epidemic is most severe in Scotland, where an estimated 12,000 youngsters use the drug, and the joint Home Office and Department of Health initiative is a victory for Scottish Office ministers who have lobbied for tighter controls on the drug, nickamed "jellies".

But although doctors in Scotland cautiously welcome the re-classification, they say ministers have not gone far enough. They argue that the sedative is so dangerous it should be banned altogether. Dr Tom Gilhooly, a GP who treats drug addicts in the Glasgow Drugs Crisis Centre, refuses to prescribe temazepam at his practice in Parkhead. He argues that GPs hand out the drug because it is cheap but, he warns, it is destroying a generation of youngsters.

With huge demand for the drug on Clydeside, dealers will find ways to circumvent the government's new restrictions, Dr Gilhooly says. "As long as temazepam is around it will be abused and when it is abused it kills. We have a public health disaster on our hands here in Glasgow. If we don't ban the drug, we will go on seeing 100 or more young people dying each year."

The Scottish Drugs Forumbacked Dr Gilhooly's call. David Liddell, director, said: "Temazepam is a dangerous drug because it not only causes deaths but also chronic blood problems that lead to amputations. It is so harmful that we want a total ban."

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