General practitioners are usually the first point of contact of the individual, abusing drugs with that of health services. GP’s have the responsibility of assessing the individual and referring him to the specialist services when required. In the U. K, GPs are now increasingly being encouraged to provide specialist treatment programs involving prescription of substitute drugs as part of multidisciplinary teams. These multidisciplinary teams would involve other specialists, psychologists, nurses, social workers etc (Home Office, 2007).
In a study by Gossop et al (1999) it was shown that outcome of patients maintained on methadone therapy in a primary care settings (GP surgery) were similar to those treated in specialist settings in the U. K. The outcomes regarding reduction of HIV risk-related behavior, social functioning, and physical and psychological wellbeing were found to be similar in both the groups. Tier 2: Open Access Service Tier 2 aims at providing advice and information services, and harm reduction services to
all the individuals and to ensure that all young people are provided with an easy access to advice and information regarding drug addiction and are equipped to fight against harmful affects of drug addiction (Home Office, 2007). Advice & Information services The advice and information services (e. g. Talk to Frank Helpline) provide advice and information related to drugs, their possible physical and psychological effects, ways to obtain help, guidance, counselling services and treatment facilities in a manner which is easily accessible and comprehensible to those seeking them (Home Office, 2007).
These services can convey their advice and information in a variety of ways including verbal lectures, written literature, audio-visual presentations, telephonic conversation, personal interviews etc. Harm Reduction Services The “Drug strategy 2000” promotes the concept of harm reduction. The approach of harm reduction aims at taking steps in order to minimize the potential harms to health which can be caused due to illicit use of drugs. For e. g. sharing of needles during the intravenous abuse of drugs can result in transmission of blood-borne infections like HIV, Hepatitis B, etc.
Intravenous injection of drugs through dirty needles can also result in development of abscesses etc. Drug abuse is often associated with prostitution and increased frequency of sexual intercourse with partners who themselves abuse drugs. This can result in further transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV (Brook et al, 2002). Through the policy of Harm reduction the U. K government aims at reducing health related risks by making use of simple strategies like syringe exchange programs, provision of condoms, methadone maintenance therapy etc (Home Office, 2007).
Methadone is a legal opioid medication which helps in reducing the withdrawal symptoms associated with the use of heroin and other opiate drugs without producing the feeling of elation and other symptoms typically associated with the use of drugs. Methadone maintenance therapy is a an important component of harm reduction approach as it helps in improving the overall outcome and quality of life among the individuals abusing drugs (Stimson & Metrebian, 2003).
Syringe exchange program is also an important component of harm reduction strategy. Under this program the drug addict who inject their drugs intravenously through hypodermic needles have an option of exchanging their old and used injection equipment with new sterile equipment. This way transmission of blood borne viruses, which spread through the sharing of infected needles among the drug addicts can be greatly avoided (Home Office, 2007).