Treat drug addiction as a chronic condition, says head of government review

·2 min read
Prof Dame Carol Black - Warren Allott
Prof Dame Carol Black - Warren Allott

Drug addiction should be treated as a "chronic condition", the head of a government review has said.

Prof Dame Carol Black urged medical professionals and the public to consider and treat addiction like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis in an attempt to create a "much more stable society".

In 2019, Prof Black was appointed to lead a two-part review into the misuse of illegal drugs in England, analysing addiction policy, research and treatment.

The first report, outlining the current situation, was published in September last year. The final report was published in July and makes 32 recommendations, including for increased funding and the creation of a governmental drugs unit.

Appearing on Telegraph journalist Bryony Gordon's Mad World podcast to mark the end of Addiction Awareness Week (which you can listen to using the audio player below) Prof Black said that treating drug addiction as a chronic condition would lead to "less serious crime, a much more stable society".

"For most people who are on serious hardline drugs, there is a story," she said. "We would be so much better to treat individuals with a drug dependency as having a chronic health condition, giving them parity with somebody who has another chronic condition.

"Let's say I had diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. That's a chronic condition. I'll have relapses and remissions. For me, that's what serious drug dependency is. And if we could get our heads around that – start to treat it like that, get the right treatment and recovery in place, there'll be less serious crime. There'll be a much more stable society."

She told the podcast that alcohol was "just as dangerous" as drugs, adding: "If you look at the number of deaths it causes and the real harm it causes, it's another drug."

As a result of her first report, the Government pledged to invest £5 million of additional funding to address county lines drug dealing. The report described underfunded treatment services and increased drug use. It also concluded that many problems were as a result of reduced funding and local commissioning practices since 2012.

Listen to Professor Dame Carol Black on the new series of our mental health podcast, Bryony Gordon's Mad World, marking Addiction Awareness Week, using the audio player in this article, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app.

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