Problem drug use the public health imperative: what some of the literature saysReport as inadecuate

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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy

, 4:21

First Online: 16 December 2009Received: 26 June 2009Accepted: 16 December 2009DOI: 10.1186-1747-597X-4-21

Cite this article as: Bevan, G. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 2009 4: 21. doi:10.1186-1747-597X-4-21


BackgroundWith more than 200,000 problem drug users is contact with structured treatment services in England the public health imperative behind drug treatment is great. Problem drug use for many is a chronic and relapsing condition, where -cure- is often neither a reasonable or appropriate expectation and it can further be argued that in these circumstances problem drug use is no different from any number of chronic and enduring health conditions that are managed in the health care system and therefore should be conceptualised as such.

DiscussionA public health approach to drug treatment emphasises the need for drug users in or accessing treatment, to reduce their harmful drug use, reduce drug use related risks such as sepsis and overdose and stay alive for longer. However a public health perspective in relation to problem drug use isn-t always either apparent or readily understood and to that end there is still a significant need to continue the arguments and debate that treatment and interventions for problem and dependent drug users need to extend beyond an individualistic approach. For the purposes of discussion in this article public and population health will be used interchangeably.

SummaryA recognition and acceptance that a public and population health approach to the management of problem drug users is sound public health policy also then requires a long term commitment in terms of staffing and resources where service delivery mirrors that of chronic condition management.

AbbreviationsATOSAustralian Treatment Outcome Study

NTANational Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse

HIVHuman Immunodeficiency Virus

WHOWorld Health Organisation.

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Author: Gez Bevan


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