Last week at Neil Findlay MSP raised the issue of Scotland’s rising tide of drug deaths at the Scottish Parliament in a debate focused on safe injecting rooms.
20 people died of drug related deaths in West Lothian in 2016, in Edinburgh that number rises to 96 deaths.
In the debate Neil Findlay said:
“I want see change across the UK, but not just in relation to consumption rooms. We need a holistic approach. Such a change will take bravery, commitment and honesty, but the status quo means more deaths, more infection and greater profits for organised criminals.
“I fully understand why people have the reaction that they do to drug users. In our society, we have been taught that the best way to deal with drug users is through imprisonment and the criminal justice system. That approach has failed communities, the police and the 867 families who had someone die of an overdose in the past year.”
A model often cited for consideration is that of Portugal where drug deaths have been decreased to the point where the country’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe, 1/10 that of the UK.
Neil Findlay added:
“We should go much further and examine the Portuguese model that looks at the relationship that people have with drugs and focuses on them as individuals. In 2001, Portugal became the first country to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit substances.
“Rather than being arrested, those who are caught with a personal supply might be given a warning, a fine or told to appear before a local commission to discuss treatment, harm reduction and support. Dealers and organised criminals are still dealt with robustly through the criminal law.
“After that policy was introduced, the following years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015, and drugs use declined overall.”
Scotland sees 160 drug deaths per million of population and there is no sign of this abating.