ADDICTS IN DEADLY MIX; Growing craze for diazepam revealed.
Drug information charity Drug- Scope said larger numbers of people are abusing diazepam, which is better known under its defunct brand name Valium.
The tranquilliser - which was launched by Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche in 1963 - was once one of the world's most widely prescribed drugs, and was associated with the acceptable, suburban face of drug-taking.
Now addicts are combining it with strong alcohol or methadone in a potentially lethal cocktail, particularly to ease the effects of withdrawal from crack cocaine, Drug Scope warned.
Diazepam may also be growing as a cheap alternative to heroin, because supplies of heroin have suffered a recent slump in purity.
Usage was rising in 15 out of 20 town and cities across the UK covered by the research. A 10 milligram dose of diazepam costs just pounds 1, the charity found.
Drug Scope chief executive Martin Barnes said: "The rise in the use of diazepam is concerning, particularly as drug users face a high risk of overdose when using the drug in combination with other drugs.
He added: "A heroin shortage might instinctively appear a positive development, especially as it can lead to more people entering treatment, but it can bring its own problems."
Police and Customs seizures of diazepam rocketed from 300,000 pills seized between July 2003 and June 2006 to two million between July 2006 and June 2008, DrugScope said.
HAZARD: Diazepam tablets are used as a heroin alternative