Health Service Focus

07.11.19

Scottish Affairs Committee calls for 'radical change' in approach to drug use

The Scottish Affairs Committee have carried out a comprehensive inquiry into problematic drug use in Scotland, and published their report.

The rise in drug deaths in Scotland has reached an all-time high of 1,187 deaths last year and the report shows that poverty and deprivation are large contributors to problematic drug use in Scotland, with inequality heavily linked with drug-related harm.

Th report attributes mixing different drugs, increased drug strength and toxicity and rising average age of drug users to the consistent rise in drug deaths.  

They are calling for the UK Government to introduce a public health approach to drugs policy, and support radical, whole-system change to get to the root of the issue.

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs argued that “drug use is a public health issue, and our response should reflect this”

Written and oral evidence was presented to the committee by NHS Scotland, Health Protection Scotland and Information Services Division.

The three organisations will soon unite to form Public Health Scotland, providing national leadership on facing the challenges associated with drugs in Scotland.

They are recommending that the UK Government makes it possible to allow for the lawful establishment of a pilot safe drug consumption facility in Scotland.

Adding that if the UK Government is unwilling to do this, t it should devolve the necessary powers to allow the Scottish Parliament to do so.

Other recommendations include decriminalisation, safe consumption facilities and tackling the stigma.

Elinor Dickie, Public Health intelligence advisor at NHS Health Scotland, said:

“In 2018 Scotland once again saw a record number of people lose their life to a drug-related death. The existing approach is not working. We would urge the Scottish and UK governments to do whatever it takes to bring about the systematic changes needed to reduce harm and save lives.

“The Scottish Affairs Committee call for clear, innovative and evidence-based action to be taken. In particular action is needed to address the factors that cause problematic drug use: like tackling poverty and reducing childhood adversity. We must also address the impact of stigma.

“If delivered, the recommendations of this report will help fully realise the potential of a joined up public health approach to drug use, bringing together aspects of policing, justice, employment, social security, housing and mental health services to support individuals in need”. 

 

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