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'Promote abstinence to misusers'

Abstinence from drugs and alcohol should be back on the agenda for misusers, according to Dr Gordon Morse, RCGP regional lead in substance misuse.

He told a recent RCGP sex, drugs and HIV task group conference that abstinence programmes run by Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous were cheap and potentially effective. Abstaining from drugs or alcohol fell out of favour with the advent of harm-reduction programmes, which aimed to ease patients off drugs with substitutes such as methadone.

But Dr Morse, a GP in Salisbury, said patients could escape the isolation and demoralisation of addiction 'for the price of a cup of tea and a custard cream'. He added: 'I'm not saying it's better or should be instead of a harm-reduction programme, but I want to debunk some of the myths surrounding abstinence. An awful lot of patients can't trust themselves. Abstinence can be a belief system for them.'

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