Don’t criminalise drug dependency says BMA

THERE should be a greater focus on reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs rather than criminalising users says a new BMA report published this month.

The report states that individuals who are addicted to illegal drugs have a medical condition which should be treated like any other illness.

Drugs of dependence – The role of medical professionals has been produced by the BMA’s Board of Science to explore what can be done to reduce the damage caused by addiction to illegal drugs. It collates and analyses evidence relating to dependency, including the scale of illegal drug use, treatment and medical management and the role of healthcare professionals in tackling the problem.

The report acknowledges that UK drugs policies are starting to incorporate wider social and economic factors but the focus on health remains inadequate. Drug users can often be discouraged from approaching drug services, contacting paramedics in emergency situations, or volunteering accurate or complete information to health professionals because they fear it may lead to criminal action.

Professor Averil Mansfield, Chairman of the BMA’s Board of Science, said: "The BMA believes that drug users are patients first. That’s why we want health to be at the heart of the debate about drugs policy. We fear that too great a focus on criminalisation is deterring drug users from seeking medical help.

"While the medical profession would never condone illegal drug taking, we believe that we should show understanding of the illness of drug addiction and respond in the way that we would with any other medical problem."

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