Scottish Liberal Democrat public health spokesperson Cllr Rosemary Bruce today branded new figures estimating that there are more than 55,000 people with problem drug use “grim but unsurprising”, urging the Scottish Government to adopt radical new measures to tackle soaring drug-related hospitalisations and deaths.
The report Prevalence of Problem Drug Use in Scotland 2015/16 estimates that the number of individuals with problem drug use in Scotland to be in the range of 55,800 to 58,900. The definition does not include recreational and occasional use, and is limited to those aged between 15 and 64.
Cllr Rosemary Bruce commented:
“These figures are grim but unsurprising. Coupled with soaring drug-related hospitalisations and deaths reaching an all-time high, today’s analysis must compel the Scottish Government to take radical action.
“The last strategy, cooked up as part of a budget deal between the SNP and Conservatives, has utterly failed. Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out a clear plan to turn this around.
“For example, treating drug misuse as a health rather than a criminal matter must involve stopping sending those caught in possession purely for personal use to prison, given one study found half of people released testing positive for drugs. Treatment and education would be a much more effective response.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat 10 point plan for tackling drug and alcohol misuse calls for:
- A ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships for the duration of the strategy, after the Scottish Government implemented a 20% cut to services in 2016/17;
- A ministerial commitment to cease sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison, as happens hundreds of times a year, and instead send them for treatment and education;
- An explanation of why drug treatment and testing orders, which the strategy says “can have a positive impact on both drug use and offending”, were only used 31 times in response to 4,400 convictions for possession in 2016/17;
- Local authorities to make licensing decisions based on venues’ efforts to keep their customers safe, instead of punishing them for incidents on their premises;
- The Scottish Government to back a regulated cannabis market, taking it out of the hands of criminals and tackling trends including increased potency which the strategy describes as “concerning”;
- The Scottish Government to establish proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment, expanding on preliminary plans for a site in Glasgow;
- Drug-testing to be deployed at localities where there is a need, allowing at risk users to find out what is in a substance and offer advice on harm reduction;
- Adverse childhood experiences to be routinely recorded as recommended by Scottish Government advisor Sir Harry Burns;
- Additional action to address neonatal abstinence syndrome through support for expectant mothers;
- The minimum unit price of alcohol to be raised to 60p to meet the policy’s original ambition and account for inflation in the years that the policy’s implementation was delayed.