‘Mother’s little helper’ returns as drug-takers use more Valium as cheap alternative to heroin
Valium: 1960s housewives’ choice
A tranquiliser once known as ‘mother’s little helper’ is experiencing a new surge in use, according to a drug information charity.
DrugScope said diazepam, which is better known under its defunct brand name Valium, was previously known for ‘ anaesthetising a generation of British housewives’ in the 1960s and 70s.
Now young people and drug addicts are taking it illegally alongside alcohol to ease withdrawal from other drugs.
DrugScope, which said usage was rising in 15 out of 20 towns it surveyed, added it may also be used as a cheap alternative to heroin.
Diazepam, nicknamed ‘blues’ or ‘vallies’, is available for as little as £1 a pill.
In Valium’s heyday in the 1960s and 70s, it was prescribed in vast quantities by GPs. It is still prescribed in far smaller numbers for anxiety disorders, alcohol
withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms. But the illegal drugs are being brought in from other European countries where it is readily available.
Many of the smugglers are holidaymakers returning from France, Spain and Portugal.
Police and Customs seizures of diazepam have rocketed from 300,000 pills in the three years to June 2006 to two million in the two years since, DrugScope said.
Long-term use is associated with mental health problems including forgetfulness, depression and agoraphobia.
DrugScope’s chief executive Martin Barnes said: ‘The rise in the use of illicitly imported diazepam is concerning, particularly as drug users face a high risk of overdose when using the drug in combination with other drugs such as methadone and alcohol.’
Drugscope’s annual survey of substance use also found that the veterinary tranquilliser ketamine, which has been growing in popularity on the drug scene for several years, is now £20 a gram compared with £28 two years ago.