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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Britain's growing addiction to sleeping pills and tranquilisers
Author: Fraser Trevor
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The College's crest and coat of arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) There are now 183 different formulations of Valium-derived medic...
The College's crest and coat of arms
The College's crest and coat of arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are now 183 different formulations of Valium-derived medications. Doctors in Britain issue almost 18 million prescriptions a year for them, and every GP has at least 180 long-term users on their books.
While the nation's 250,000 to 300,000 heroin users are offered substantial help from the NHS to kick their addiction, benzodiazepine addicts receive relatively little support.
Despite being highly addictive and having alarming side-effects, Valium had become one of the world's best-selling drugs by the mid-Seventies.
It was originally manufactured by Hoffmann La Roche, but the company lost its patent protection in 1985. Some 500 different versions of the drug were subsequently marketed by different companies worldwide.
 Clare Gerada, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, insists that none of her members are condemning new patients to long-term use of the drugs. But she says: 'It's often simply too dangerous to take an addict off these drugs [because of the side-effects]. Going on prescribing them may be the best option.'
Malcolm Lader, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, has devoted more than 40 years to campaigning against Valium and its derivatives. He says: 'Doctors have ignored warnings for years, but we need to stop more people going on benzodiazepines.'
Britain's growing addiction to sleeping pills and tranquilisers has prompted a series of reviews by doctors and public health chiefs.
Heather Ashton, emeritus professor of pharmacology at Newcastle University, told a meeting of the British Medical Association in January that nine out of ten GPs do not offer any sort of help to wean people off these drugs. 'We are stuck in a slough of inertia and ignorance,' she said.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked the public health minister, Anna Soubry, to look at the scale of the problem and consider what steps should be taken to support addicts.
Whatever the outcome, it is likely to come too late for many of the 1.5 million people whose lives have been blighted by their addiction.




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