Two major steps on drug policy

 

Sir, – I welcome two major steps that have occurred this week in progressing our national debate on changing existing drug policy: the first is the passing of legislation in Ireland that allows doctors to prescribe cannabis products for medicinal purposes.

For now the allowed conditions are limited but this legislation recognises the well-documented medicinal properties of cannabis and hopefully the indications for its use will be extended as the evidence base for its effectiveness grows.

This approach is now in line with the WHO recommendation that cannabis be recognised for its medical benefits.

Second, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has called for cocaine, heroin and cannabis to be reclassified to reflect a critical scientific assessment of harm and benefits and for a more transparent and evidence based approach to be applied to drug scheduling .

This reports criticises the historical political motivation that underpins the present classification and the consequences of such restrictions, in particular, for people living in middle and low income countries.

These consequences include: people forced to undergo surgery without anaesthetic and to die in unnecessary pain due to lack of pain relief, spread of infectious diseases, higher mortality and prison overcrowding. It is estimated that our existing restrictive drug policies deny 80 per cent of the world’s population of medicines that are deemed essential by the WHO.

The report calls for a “fresh approach” to drug classification and for this approach to be based on health and wellbeing and for restrictions to be loosened on drugs assessed as being less harmful, including for their traditional, religious and social use. Yours etc,

Dr DES CROWLEY,

Addiction Specialist,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.