Let's put health at the heart of drug policies
Posted on 14 January 2013 by Averil Mansfield
Drug policy has been a major topic for discussion following the Home Affairs Committee report Drugs: Breaking the Cycle, published at the end of last year, and yesterday’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform publication calling for a change of direction.
But behind all the statistics, the statements and the reports there are thousands of individual people with unique stories and far too often their health needs are neglected.
Today the BMA joins the debate by producing its own report — Drugs of dependence: The role of medical professionals and calls for health to be central in policies on illegal drug addiction.
One of our case studies focuses on a 42-year old man, Mr HT, who has an extensive criminal history including five periods of imprisonment. One of the first things he did when he got out of prison was ‘score’ heroin. When he was found sleeping on the streets he was offered a bed in a hostel and he started a rehabilitation programme. With the right kind of help this individual recovered.
The BMA report does not come down on one side of the debate — our focus is patients and their health needs.
We believe that addiction to illegal drugs is a medical condition that needs to be treated like any other illness. It’s important to remember that no one sets out to be addicted to drugs and a simplistic moralistic approach may not be helpful.
Yes, we need to look into why some people turn to drugs, and more importantly, what makes people become addicted and of course we should be tough on crime.
But we should also show understanding when it comes to managing an illness.
The BMA report explores the role of medical professionals in dealing with illegal drugs of dependence. We want to reframe the debate through the eyes of the medical profession and use our expertise to improve health to help our patients.
We want to hear about your views on the report and how you think we should take this debate forward.
Professor Averil Mansfield, chair of the BMA Board of Science
Health and well-being
science and public health
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