John Sandwich: The coalition says this will be a priority. That's what the last government said, too

Share
Related Topics

Last month I asked the Government what progress they had made with their review of policy on addiction to, and withdrawal from, tranquillisers and other prescribed drugs such as Valium and Ativan. After all, it is nearly 40 years since Professors Peter Tyrer and Malcolm Lader identified problems of addiction in the 1970s, and 25 years since Professor Heather Ashton of Newcastle University and others published their research, as a result of which GPs and NHS staff for a time became much more aware of the dangers.

The reason I put the question is that a relative of mine has been badly let down by the medical profession, which originally prescribed him clonazepam (a benzodiazepine, like Valium) as a sleeping aid in 2002. For the past 19 months, he has lived a half life in his room, suffering acute psychological and physical symptoms such as agoraphobia, panic attacks, muscle pain, insomnia, dizziness, blurred vision, tinnitus, sweating and nausea. He has been unable to work or to contribute fully to the life of his young family.

My question, and the debate which followed in the House of Lords, led to a number of predictable ministerial promises.

They claim drug dependency will become one of their priorities. They will conduct a literature review and an "audit of selected primary care trust prescribing data". They will map the available services and consider how PCTs might support them. They say they will include prescribed drugs in a new drugs strategy and a public health White Paper, both to be published later this year.

I hope I am wrong, but I am not confident that very much will happen. The last government made similar promises, and yet today there is only one NHS-funded support centre, in Oldham, despite the fact that these patients have become addicted as a result of drugs prescribed via the NHS. Few people realise that the symptoms during withdrawal are in most cases worse than those from illegal drugs, and there are many thousands more prescribed drug victims than there are heroin addicts.

What, for example, has been done about warnings? Doctors regularly ignore the British National Formulary guidelines. Labels are inadequate: they should be as prominent as cigarette warnings. The current advice is that addiction can develop within two to four weeks. And yet Professor Steven Field, the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, warned last year that patients can "get hooked" after only three or four days.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction is seeking to confront the MRC and to achieve transparency in the health service. Following today's revelations, someone in authority must take responsibility.

The Earl of Sandwich is the vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project