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Prescription Drugs: The Dangers

Friday, September 26th, 2008 Prescription Drugs: The Dangers

As written in the Times (24 02 08). Forget heroin and cocaine. The dangerous drugs claiming the lives and minds of the stars are prescription painkillers and a new class of happy pills that doctors are handing out by the million. What finally killed Heath Ledger wasn’t heroin or cocaine. Despite his well-publicised problems with illegal hard drugs in the past, the potentially lethal compounds found in the Manhattan apartment of the 28-year-old Hollywood actor after his death in January had all been legally prescribed.

Think again. Of the six sedatives, painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs Ledger was taking, three had been prescribed here during his recent spell filming in London. In common with a growing number of young serial drug abusers – including his fellow film star Owen Wilson, whose attempted suicide last year was attributed to a three-day binge on the legal painkiller OxyContin.

The NHS issued 31m scripts for Prozac in 2006, a blanket figure that, however it breaks down in terms of the numbers of users referred to, suggests that a lot of people are regularly taking a powerful antidepressant. Then there are the Valium guzzlers. The Council for Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction (Cita), run by Liverpool University, guesstimates that there are as many as 1.5m nervous types in this country who have become accidentally addicted to benzodiazepines, the family of tranquillisers to which Valium belongs. We need to very seriously rethink what we are taking.

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