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9 Apr. 2019

Major new guide sets out how illicit drugs affect health

A new book on illicit drugs and health, written by experts from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney, will provide vital information for health professionals on the impact of illicit drug use.

The book covers the major drug types: stimulants, opioids, cannabis, hallucinogens, and the new emerging class of ‘novel psychoactive substances (NPS)’.

The Clinician’s Guide to Illicit Drugs and Health by Shane Darke, Julia Lappin and Michael Farrell will be published by Silverback Publishing on Tues, 16 April 2019. Price £18.99 (Paperback) £12.99 (PDF).

“While there are excellent works on the major licit drugs, alcohol and tobacco, there is surprisingly little available on the major illicit drugs,” said lead author, UNSW Professor Shane Darke.

“Overall, it is estimated that a quarter of a billion people, some 5% of the global adult population, use an illicit drug at least once in a calendar year.

“Given such widespread use, there is an urgent need for a book that covers in detail all the major illicit drugs and their health impact.

"We believe this book will form a core reference for medical practitioners, physicians in training, nurses, treatment providers, researchers, behavioural scientists and the interested layperson.”

The guide has an easy-to-follow structure that examines each major illicit drug class and focuses on its effects on the major organ systems: heart, brain, liver, lungs and kidney. Each drug class also has a section on pregnancy.

“As most illicit drug users take more than one drug type, we comment on the role of other substances, both licit and illicit, where relevant. In each chapter we present the patterns of use, user characteristics, dependence, drug toxicity and mortality,” said Professor Darke.

Co-author of the guide and NDARC Director, Professor Michael Farrell said that Illicit drug use is associated with extremely high levels of mortality and chronic illness.

“Illicit drug use is recognised worldwide as a major public health problem,” said Professor Farrell.

“Anyone dealing with illicit drug users needs to be aware of the facts set out in this book, so that they know how to address the physical and psychological issues that arise.”

Dr Julia Lappin, a psychiatrist at South Eastern Sydney Local Health District and co-author of the guide, said the book can help people working or living with people with illicit drug problems reduce stigma.

“The stigma associated with illicit drug use gets in the way of effectively tackling the problems that arise,” said Dr Lappin.

“In training of doctors, nurses and other health professionals relatively little is devoted to teaching about illicit drugs and so this guide will be an essential reference,” she added.

Professor Robert West, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Addiction, said the guide was an extremely important educational resource.

“The authors have done an amazing job of presenting a huge amount of information in a very readable and accessible form,” said Professor West.

The Clinician’s Guide to Illicit Drugs and Health by Shane Darke, Julia Lappin and Michael Farrell will be published by Silverback Publishing on Tuesday, 16 April 2019. Price £18.99 (Paperback) £12.99 (PDF).

Copies are available for pre-order here.