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Drug addiction like 'any other illness'

Drug addicts have a medical condition which should be treated “like any other illness”, the British Medical Association (BMA) said today (15 January 2013). 

According to the independent report, 'Drugs of dependence - The role of medical professionals', though UK drug policy is beginning to incorporate social and economic factors, the focus on health remains “inadequate”. 

Professor Averil Mansfield, chairman of the BMA's Board of Science, said: “Effective drug policy should take account of the complex biological, psychological and social factors involved in illegal drug use.  

“It is also vital that medical training should provide doctors with the basic knowledge about these factors to help clinicians identify patients at risk.”

The National Institute Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) introduced a new quality standard in November last year which emphasizes “comprehensive” treatment. 

People accessing drug treatment should be offered a mental, social and personal health assessment, the new standard said. 

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE said: “It is important that there is a joined-up approach in addressing the issues surrounding drug use disorders. 

“This new quality standard sets out what needs to be done in order to make sure that every individual is receiving the best possible care and support.”

The BMA report explores the role of healthcare professionals in tackling drug misuse, as well as the development of UK drug policy over time.  

Home Office statistics show 8.9% of adults used an illegal drug in the past year, the lowest level since records began in 1996. 

Professor Mansfield added: “We welcome the downward trend in drug use, but it is extremely worrying that long-term problem drug use and drug related deaths are not decreasing.”