Pharmacists are ideally situated to offer non-judgemental support to those addicted to illegal drugs, Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), has said.
Soni was speaking at Street Drugs in the Northern Powerhouse: Perspective and Policy, a debate held at the University of Manchester on 28 March 2018.
While pointing out that RPS policy does not support the legalisation of “street drugs”, Soni said that illegal drug use might be better viewed as primarily a public health matter rather than a criminal issue. A focus on treatment of addiction, rather than criminalisation of the user, would encourage more illegal drug users to seek help.
People frequently misuse drugs because of vulnerabilities in mental or physical health, or arising from their personal lives, he said, adding that such people need help to deal with these vulnerabilities – the ultimate cause of drug misuse. Fear of prosecution may deter illegal drug users from seeking help for their addiction.
Pharmacists, Soni said, are viewed by patients as non-judgemental and are, therefore, in a good position to support users of illegal drugs. There is, he said, an opportunity for pharmacists to help people dealing with illegal drug addiction in the same way as they help smokers and those addicted to prescription drugs.
“We treat users as criminals, but they need support to get off these things. Most smokers want to quit, and illegal drug users are no different,” he said.