Message from Jim Dobbin MP, Chair of the APPG on Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction:
The APPG was set up to raise awareness of Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction and lobby for support from health service providers, local authorities and government.
In order to pursue our objectives we need more MPs to become involved with the APPG. I myself became involved in this issue by listening to the story of only one constituent, Rob Wilson from Rochdale who was withdrawing from Ativan lorazepam). MPs can become involved in an issue if they are lobbied by a constituent. You can lobby your MP in two ways:
1. Write to your MP at the House of Commons, Westminster, London, SWIA OAA.
2. Attend your MP’s constituency surgery. Find out when and where the surgery is from your Town Hall’s Information service and attend the surgery.
Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction is an appropriate subject to bring to the attention of your MP. Your MP should support you in that there is no justification for the present situation. Tell your MP your own personal tranquilliser story and how you want things to change. If necessary make notes for your visit. You can refer your MP to the Early Day Motion and Parliamentary Questions that I have submitted to Parliament and which are available here on this website (see below).
The focus of our campaign at the moment is to lobby the Department of Health for specialised withdrawal services for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction to be provided throughout the country. As current or ex-tranquilliser addicts you may be disillusioned with politics and the way the system operates. However it is only through political action by MPs that we will be able to change things for the better. An MP will normally respond on an issue if lobbied by a constituent.
Jim Dobbin MP
October 22, 2008
APPGITA Aims and Objectives
- Gain recognition from the Department of Health that involuntary tranquilliser addiction is an iatrogenic condition and should not be treated as substance misuse. Involuntary tranquilliser addicts should be treated as a separate population from illicit users. They require different treatment with drug-free outcomes
- Lobby for the formulation of national clinical withdrawal guidelines based on the Ashton method to achieve drug-free outcomes
- Lobby for the provision of national specialist treatment for involuntary tranquilliser addicts
- Ensure proper adherence to and enforcement of existing prescribing guidelines by GPs
- Work to provide other support and assistance for ITA sufferers
- MHRA prescribing guidelines and product warnings to be improved to international standards
- Tranquilliser market authorisations to be significantly reduced
- Medical research to be commissioned by the DoH into the long-term effects of tranquilliser use with investigation into long-term cognitive damage, physical and psychological damage, benzo babies, increased risk of dementia and correlation with early death
- Lobbying of the DWP regarding recognition of ITA for benefits purposes
1. Lobbying of DoH Ministers and Officials
1.1. A Department of Health statement (agreed with APPGITA) acknowledging that involuntary tranquilliser addiction is a recognised medical condition and not substance misuse.
1.2. Lobby for the provision of specialist, dedicated and effective treatment for those addicted to tranquillisers based on the Ashton method to achieve a drug-free outcome.
1.3. Services should be set up to work on an outreach principle, identifying long-term and medium-term regular prescribed tranquilliser users via GP records, according to agreed objective definitions and criteria. The risks of addiction should be explained in writing to regular users who must be provided with standard information packs on tranquillisers including the potential risks of rapid withdrawals.
1.4. Services should include proper rehabilitation for prescribed drug addicts designed to enable them to return to a functioning life, including work. Such rehabilitation already exists for illicit drug users but that programme of rehabilitation is not suitable for ITAs.
1.5. Prescribing guidelines to be enforced with limits placed on the system of absolute discretion and self-regulation for prescribers that operates at the moment under the excuse of clinical judgement. Prescribers have had since 1988 to follow the guidelines and have not done so. The existing data sheet (SPC) guidelines are continually ignored with no penalties for infringement.
1.6. An independent review of the tranquilliser licences for safety and efficacy of the drugs.
1.7. Standard uniform data collection systems to be introduced and information to be recorded centrally by the DoH, for example:
- The number of long-term addicts
- The number of babies born addicted from addicted mothers
- The number of ex-addicts who are permanently damaged
- The number of new addicts created each year
- The number of addicts who successfully withdraw each year
- Figures on the duration of addiction
1.8. A ‘no fault’ compensation scheme for tranquilliser addiction injuries to be introduced funded by the drug manufacturers.
1.9. A public inquiry into the tranquilliser scandal.
2. Lobbying of Government Departments
2.1. Many APPGITA supporters have been disabled and incapacitated by tranquillisers and other psychotropic drugs to the point where they are unable to work and have to apply for benefit. DWP currently has no statistics on this. DWP should investigate this hidden cause of unemployment and calculate the correlation between the long-term use of tranquillisers and anti depressants and the uptake of benefits, and the wider cost of ITA to the system as a whole through family breakdown etc.
2.2. The recognition of ITA for benefit purposes: Involuntary tranquilliser addicts who are working and wish to withdraw from tranquillisers are faced with the prospect of being unable to work during withdrawal and post withdrawal recovery. There is no benefit provision for tranquiliser withdrawal and so there is no exit route from the drugs for many working ITA.
2.3. DWP to recognise that drug free goals may need to be supported by the benefit system whilst the treatment is in progress, which may cost more short-term but would provide long-term gain.
2.4. More specialist rehabilitation, support and assistance for prescribed drug addicts to enable them to return to a functioning life including work, over a reasonable and manageable timescale.
2.5. The referral of benzodiazepine and Z – drug tranquillisers to the Home Office for assessment by the ACMD for rescheduling and reclassification
3. Engagement with devolved administrations and European bodies
3.1. Liaise with the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Assembly on their approaches to ITA.
3.2. Use European bodies, such as the Council of Europe, to create wider recognition of ITA and those who are suffering from current guidelines.
4. Engagement and lobbying of doctors groups including the BMA and RCGP and RC PSYCH
4.1. Gain support for recognition of ITA as a medical condition.
4.2. Compliance with prescribing guidelines.
5. Using the Parliamentary process and engaging with Parliamentarians and elected representatives
5.1. To educate as many MPs and Peers as possible of the ongoing scandal.
5.2. Increase membership of APPGITA.
5.3. Tabling of Parliamentary Questions to probe DoH inconsistencies and to maintain a profile for the APPG and the ITA issue.
5.4. To hold an adjournment debate in the Commons on the issue of ITA.
6. Engagement and liaison with relevant charities, voluntary groups and other specialist providers
6.1. Liaise with patients and patients’ groups to gather information and offer support and advice where appropriate.
6.2. Liaise with addiction charities, voluntary groups and service providers challenging their work where necessary, to promote and progress the aims and objectives of the APPG.
6.3. Working with charities, voluntary groups and service providers where their aims and objectives match those of the APPG.
7. Media outreach
8.1. Provide information to media outlets and journalists to reflect the aims and objectives of the APPG.