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New guide summarises the health harms of drugs 

An updated guide summarising the health harms of drug and alcohol misuse is available, aimed at supporting non-medical practitioners working with substance misuse issues.

 “A summary of the health harms of drugs” updates the 2003 “Dangerousness of Drugs” guide, outlining acute and chronic problems associated with each substance, as well as:

  • Factors that mediate or moderate the risk
  • Potential health risks linked to substances commonly added to illicit drugs
  • The influence of different circumstances of use, e.g poly-substance abuse

This essential guide for drug and alcohol treatment professionals provides the most up to date scientific evidence on the health harms arising from licit and illicit substance misuse. The update includes new drugs since the guide was last published, such as novel synthetic drugs and takes a more in-depth look at the potential harms of using more than one drug and the adulterants commonly added to illegal drugs.

“A summary of the health harms of drugs” has been published on the Department of Health (DH) and National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) websites. It was commissioned by the NTA on behalf of the DH, and collated by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.


Notes to editors

About “A summary of the health harms of drugs: A guide to the risks and harms associated with substance misuse”

This publication is an update on the 2003 guide ‘Dangerousness of drugs’, which outlines the acute and chronic health problems associated with each commonly used substance in the UK.  It has been has been independently peer reviewed by a range of UK-based and international experts on each licit and illicit drug.  In addition, it has been reviewed by a multi-disciplinary group of clinicians and policy experts at the Department of Health and at the NTA.

The guide is aimed at supporting non-medical practitioners and others who work with drug issues. It is not connected to the classification of illicit drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971), which is the remit of the Home Office. It is not connected to the work of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, or Professor David Nutt.

About the NTA

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is a special health authority which aims to improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England. 

When it published the NHS white paper last year, the government announced that as part of the reforms proposed, the NTA would cease to exist as a separate organisation and its key functions would be transferred to a new national service, Public Health England (PHE).

The companion public health white paper subsequently made clear that reducing drug use, and enabling people to overcome dependency, recover fully and contribute to society, would be a key priority for this new public health service.

The Department of Health is now taking forward the transition to PHE, under which services will in future be commissioned by local authorities through Directors of Public Health, supported by Health & Wellbeing Boards.

During the interim period the NTA will drive the transformation from a 'treatment system' to a 'recovery system' to provide a solid foundation on which PHE can build.

For further information contact Miranda Askew, Senior Communications Officer

Tel. 020 7972 1921 Email: miranda.askew@nta-nhs.org.uk 

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