Drug Users Fearing Law Must Not Be Scared to Contact Health Services; Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh Secretary, BMA, Outlines Why Drugs Policy Needs a Stronger Focus on Patients Monday, 21 January 2013 THEPROFESSIONALS
DRUGS 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 the 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.
The British Medical Association has published a new report to explore what can be done to reduce the damage caused by illegal drug addiction, and is calling for health to be central in policies on illegal drug addiction.
One of our case studies focuses on a 42-year old man, 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 does not come down on one side of the debate our focus is patients and their health needs. 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.
The medical profession would never condone illegal drug taking, we believe that the profession should show understanding of the illness of drug addiction and respond in the way that we would with any other medical problem. Addiction to illegal drugs is a medical condition. 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. …