An extended literature review of health professionals' perceptions of illicit drugs and their clients who use them

D McLaughlin, A Long
Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 1996, 3 (5): 283-8
The literature relating to health professionals and illicit drugs and clients who use them shows many common themes. It is evident that the majority of health professionals hold negative, stereotypical perceptions of illicit drug-users. Consequently, these negative attitudes become prejudicial, hence blocking the professional from carrying out effective and humane nursing care to this client group. Evidence also shows that health professionals' perceptions on the legalization of currently illicit drugs is linked to their own use of these drugs rather than any social or health reasons. Professionals' views on the different illicit substances are also coloured by their use, not by the actual evidence relating to the effects of that drug, in particular, cannabis. The literature shows that health professionals project heavily on to the client all their own negative perceptions of illicit drug use, in the care setting. This has produced very unsatisfactory and unsafe care, resulting in both client and carer being dissatisfied with the whole aspect of care. In addition, specialist teams are being swamped by health professionals who are referring almost every illicit drug-user to these services. The future may be brighter with the generalist and specialist working closely together for the benefit of all, especially the client and, ultimately, the community.

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