SDPC 12: Drug Related Deaths – SDPC held its’ 12th conversation looking at drug related deaths in Scotland, and producing some recomendations on how to help reduce such deaths in the future. The main record of discussion can be found here, but the main outcomes were:
There was broad agreement on the following outcomes:
- PUBLIC ENQUIRY – Call for a public enquiry, commission or citizens assembly into drug policy in Scotland involving all stakeholders and requiring mandatory participation from identified stakeholders. This reflects Recommendation 66 of the Commission for Parliamentary Reform report (2017, p.69) which advocates the use of deliberative processes. SDPC will work towards this in the coming months. It was also felt that in order to input into the current refresh SDPC should work with the Scottish Government to collect submissions from stakeholders currently not engaging in the process.
- UNIVERSAL INCOME – there was across the board support for the implementation of the Universal Income. It is envisaged that the impact of the Universal Income would help reduce the financial instability experienced by many problematic drug consumers that results from benefit sanctions for missed appointments, inability to access the right benefit advise, etc. Furthermore, the Universal Income would help reduce the stigma and stress associated with being in receipt of benefits, allowing individuals to access employment and voluntary opportunities not currently available. Finally, it shifts the focus away from economic need to social need.
- HARM REDUCTION – Implementation of effective harm reduction, including harm reduction champions similar to recovery champions. It is felt that currently Scottish harm reduction initiatives are not adequate. While there are embedded practices such as needle exchange and naloxone provision, harm reduction as a policy is not implemented across the board. Sub-optimal prescribing, the barriers currently being experienced in regards drug consumption rooms, low uptake of heroin assisted treatment, resistance to drug testing and decriminalisation of drug possession are all examples of inadequate harm reduction measures.
- LANGUAGE – the language should move away from the language of recovery to the language of well-being, for example ‘The Road to Well-Being’. This can incorporate recovery and abstinence but reflects the fact that not all drug consumers wish to become drug free, and moves the conversation towards more holistic approaches to the complex issues surrounding problematic drug use.
- FRUSTRATION – there is deep frustration across all disciplines at the lack of political leadership in regards the implementation of non-controversial initiatives shown to reduce drug related harm. The reserved nature of some aspects of drug policy should not be a barrier to championing these initiatives.
- CURRENT POLICY IMPACT ASSESSMENT – a impact assessment of the current policy, reserved and devolved, would be helpful in understanding what works, and what exacerbates problematic drug use.
- DRUG AMNESTY – encouraging drug consumers to discuss their drug using habits with G.P.’s and support services by creating an amnesty of disclosure of drug use. This would help reduce the stigma associated with disclosure, and help doctors understand their patients drug using habits better, in order to prescribed and design individual treatment options.
- DRUG PROBLEMS ARE SOCIAL PROBLEMS – more emphasis needs to be put on the role poverty and current austerity measures (such as the reduction in funding for drug services) are having on drug using patterns.