Letter from Jim Dobbin MP to Trevor Phillips, EHRC (12 May 2009)

House of Commons Portcullis

H O U S E   O F   C O M M O N S

APPGITA – All Party Parliamentary Group for
Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

May 12, 2009

Trevor Phillips
Equality and Human Rights Commission
3, More London
Riverside
Tooley Street
London SE1 2RG

I am chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction. We are campaigning on behalf of patients who have become addicted to tranquillisers prescribed to them by their doctors; benzodiazepines such as diazepam, lorazepam and temazepam and ‘Zed’ drugs such as Zopiclone. Prescribing guidelines limit the use of these drugs to 2-4 weeks, because of their addictiveness and toxicity. However, patients who have become addicted are often left on them for months, years and decades.

These drugs are potent and highly addictive and withdrawal can be complicated, painful and traumatic. Successful and safe withdrawal from the prescribed dose can take six to eighteen months, and may be followed by a post-withdrawal syndrome. Many addicts are unable to withdraw without specialized help. The Department of Health has for many years excluded this illness from treatment. The National Treatment Agency which provides drug services for the Department of Health routinely turns away patients who are addicted to tranquillisers. GPs do not have the time, training or expertise to deal with this problem.

We are campaigning for specialised tranquilliser withdrawal services and have been unsuccessful so far. There are an estimated 1.5 million tranquilliser addicts at any one time.

There is systematic exclusion from medical treatment of a large group of people. We believe this is discrimination on the basis of a medical condition. That medical condition has been created by the health service. The exclusion has been a long-term policy of the Department of Health under all administrations. The effects upon the individual of drug addiction are often disastrous in terms of health, employment and family.

We have a large archive of correspondence and medical and legal documents on all aspects of this problem. We have contacts with our many supporters if individual cases are required.

We would like to request a meeting with you on this subject to consider the possibility of an enquiry by your organisation.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Dobbin MP
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction

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