Lung damage warning for users who smoke injectable drugs

AN AUSTRALIAN trend for drug users to smoke rather than inject drugs like crack cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin will lead to serious lung damage, a UK expert warns.

Dr Alistair Story told the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand meeting in Darwin yesterday that Australian data showed drug users were following overseas trends, using a ‘respiratory route’ rather than injecting drugs.

“In the United Kingdom, there is a trend among health care providers to describe smoking rather than injecting drugs as a harm reduction measure,” Dr Story, a respiratory specialist at University College Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said.

“However, I prefer to call this harm diversion. We know that injecting drugs is extremely damaging to health, but so is smoking drugs.”

He said there was a low awareness of the risks of smoking drugs in terms of lung damage among health care providers working with drug addicts.

Integrating respiratory health care into drug treatment services was a missed opportunity as a consequence, he said.

Dr Story, who pioneered outreach lung disease diagnosis and response programs among drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless people in London said drug users who choose to smoke the drug needed to understand the health consequences of chronic lung diseases.

“The lung is a non-regenerative organ and declining lung health is a one way ticket,” he said.

Source: 29th March 2013

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