PRESCRIPTION drug addicts are being let down by the government, a Dorset politician and landowner has warned.

The Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, said he has seen first hand the effect benzodiazepene addiction has had on a member of his own family.

The Earl, of the Mapperton Estate near Beaminster, is now calling for the government to put more resources into helping people overcome their addictions to and withdrawal from drugs like valium and mogadon.

He said: “This is one of the great sagas of the twentieth century and it is still goes on.

“Television programmes have made people aware that you can have as much trouble with prescription drugs as with illegal ones.

“Tens of thousands of people – it is estimated up to a million and a half – could be continuing to take tranquilisers and many more are sampling them.

“Among those people is a member of my own family and this has been a concern of mine since around January last year.”

The Earl raised the issue during a House of Lords debate earlier this month and is calling on the government to speed up an ongoing review of people’s dependence on and withdrawal from benzodiazepene based medicines, which are often prescribed to treat insomnia, depression, alcohol addiction and anxiety.

He said the symptoms of withdrawal from these medications can include panic attacks, muscle fatigue and epileptic seizures.

The Earl said: “Withdrawal from these drugs is not on the general list of NHS services but I would like to see these people being supported very quickly as part of a best practice policy.

“There are no benefits for these people – they can’t work and, often, no doctor is going to certify them as being unable to work.

“As a result these people are left with no incomes, living in darkened rooms and communicating on computers to people.

“It sounds like a bleak picture, but that’s what it is.”

The Earl said the only NHS service in the country set up to help people overcome benzodiazepene addiction was based in Oldham, Lancashire and that he would like to see similar services throughout the country.

He added: “This should be a priority of Primary Care Trusts throughout the land.”