Drugs death report: Time to reform law and stop punishing addicts

Drugs death report: Time to reform law and stop punishing addicts

Scotland’s addiction services and drug laws should be reformed, the head of the drug deaths taskforce said as the group published its final report.

The Changing Lives report makes 20 recommendations as well as 139 action points it suggests will help stem the tide of drug deaths in Scotland.

In 2020, 1,339 people died due to drug overdoses – a figure that was three times as high as the rest of the UK and the highest in Europe.

David Strang, head of the taskforce, said: “We’ve had the Misuse of Drugs Act for 50 years and we’ve tried locking people up for possession of drugs and we just know that that is not the solution.

“This is an issue of addiction, which needs treatment, care and support, and compassion - not stigmatisation, discrimination and criminalisation.”

The taskforce was established in 2019 after Scotland recorded in excess of 1,000 deaths for the first time.

Since then, it has provided some £14 million in funding to projects designed to lower drug deaths. Among these are the distribution of the overdose prevention drug Naloxone to police and the development of new treatment standard.

The group’s recommendations include: creating an extensive Naloxone network as well as implementing in full the new Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards, which relate to opioid replacement drugs like methadone, across Scotland within two years.

The report also calls on the UK government to reform the Misuse of Drugs Act to legalise drug injecting facilities.

Mr Strang said: “If the problem is people’s addiction, then you are not going to solve that by punishing them. That won’t act as a deterrent.

“People need treatment, care and support.”

He added: “Often, the recovery communities pick up the pieces at the margins. But we are saying they should be much closer to the heart of delivery of services and treatment.

“Often people who have been on that journey and that was a very powerful help for them.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Our recently published 10-year drugs strategy will support people through treatment and recovery, as well as an even tougher response to criminal supply chains and the demand that fuels these illegal markets.”

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