Doctors, their leaders, and the drug policy debateBMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i6087 (Published 14 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6087
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In the article Averil Mansfield is quoted as saying, “We need to treat drug misuse as a medical problem rather than necessarily as a criminal one, and doctors should be part of the debate.”
Indeed can drug misuse be ‘treated’ as a medical problem? Use and misuse implies a choice. No one chooses to have a medical problem. Drug dependence or addiction, on the other hand, can be without a doubt a medical problem, where treatment and therapy are called for and have a definitive role. Can we really say, “Antisocial behavior is a medical problem and doctors should be treating it”. Then the list becomes never-ending. One might soon hear, “Misuse of kitchen-knives (for harming) is a medical problem and doctors have to do something about it”! The danger of 'medicalizing' something is that the responsibility of fixing it falls on the medical profession. Drug misuse is a social problem, and it is everybody’s responsibility to be part of the debate and to be part of the solution.
The illegal drugs business is next only to arms business in terms of turnover and profits. People involved in this business can go to any level to achieve their mean ends, including murder, human trafficking and child sexual abuse. The drug trade is one of the main finances of terrorism. It is a known fact that drug taking and possessing are associated with criminal behaviors and crime. It thrives on the black economy. We see the dangerous nexus of human greed, glamour and gamble feeding it. Drug misuse and criminality go hand in hand.
Doctors should certainly be part of the debate on national policies on drugs and should take a stance but with clarity, qualifying it with the limitations of medical responsibility. The future of our society is at stake. The lives of our most vulnerable people are at stake. It is surprising to know that none of the Royal Colleges has a formal stance on it!
Competing interests: No competing interests