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Psychoactive Drugs Tobacco, Alcohol, and Illicit Substances

7. Conclusions

    Drug use and addiction cause a lot of disease and disability in the world. Recent advances in neuroscience may help improve policies to reduce the harm that the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other psychoactive drugs impose on society.

    Effective action should take into account the following:

    1. Since the effects of drugs on health vary greatly depending on the type of drug and on the way it is used, the public health response to drug use should be proportional to the health-related harm it causes.
    2. Use of psychoactive substances is to be expected because of their pleasurable effects as well as social influences. The greater the frequency and amount of drug used, the higher the risk of becoming dependent.
    3. Effective public health policies and programmes that address not only drug dependence but also other forms of harmful drug use could lead to a significant reduction in the overall health burden of drug use.
    4. The risk of becoming dependent on drugs is determined by a combination of biological, genetic, psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors. Currently, it is impossible to predict who will become drug dependent.
    5. Drug dependence is a medical disorder, not a lack of willpower or strength of character.
    6. Drug dependence and mental illnesses often affect the same individuals. Therefore, it would be useful to integrate research, assessments, and treatments for both types of disorders.
    7. The cost-effective treatment and management of drug dependence can save lives, improve health, and reduce costs to society. Beyond stopping drug use, effective treatment requires changes in the behaviour of users and often the use of substitute drugs.
    8. Treatment must be accessible to all in need and the health care sector should provide the most cost-effective treatments.
    9. Prejudice and discrimination against drug dependent people is one of the main barriers to their treatment. Everyone has the same rights to health care, education, work opportunities and integration into society.
    10. Investment in brain research on drug dependence must continue and expand to cover social science, prevention, treatment and policy research. The results of research should be used to devise evidence-based policies to reducing the burden from drug use.

    Recent advances in the treatment of drug dependence raise difficult ethical issues that must be addressed by scientific and policy communities as a priority. More...


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