Posted on: 12 July, 2023
Cranstoun support the Scottish Government’s call for a shift towards a health-based approach to drug policy with harm reduction principles at its core. Their paper A Caring, Compassionate, and Human Rights Informed Policy for Scotland represents a commitment to evidence-based policy that we hope will help significantly reduce drug-related deaths in the long-term.
We commend the Scottish Government for listening to people with lived and living experience to construct these proposals, as their voices are particularly important to deliver the meaningful and effective changes needed to tackle this issue. For too long, the criminalisation of people who use drugs has created barriers to social and economic inclusion, and embedded stigmatisation of people who use drugs in our society, and so we wholly support the measures outlined to decriminalise drug possession.
As an organisation who practice harm reduction, we support the calls for legislative change to allow for a broader suite of evidence-based interventions to be available, including Overdose Prevention Centres, drug-checking, and the distribution of sterile paraphernalia used by people who use drugs.
The absence of safe supply directly contributes to the continuing drugs deaths crisis in Scotland, and ensures an enormous market is controlled by violent criminal organisations.
Prohibition and its enforcement has led to increased drug potency, and consequentially encouraged criminal organisations to recruit children to sell and traffic their products.
We can reverse these trends through regulation, and Cranstoun supports efforts to involve the population to develop a regulatory framework for the safer supply of drugs.
This announcement today must not simply leave the the decision in the hands of a Westminster Government which promised a crackdown on drugs just last week. The Scottish Government must also continue to pursue solutions within the existing legal framework to allow for the implementation of evidence-based harm reduction policies.
The Scottish Government must give clarity regarding the deprioritisation agreements with regards to controlled substances which achieved approval from the Lord Advocate in 2021, and do everything they can to support the case before the Lord Advocate as to whether an Overdose Prevention Centre could open now. This would be on the basis that prosecuting the operators or people who may use such a facility would not be ‘in the public interest’ as was mentioned in the paper, and that such a facility – dependent upon the scope – would not be in contravention of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
A medicalised model of Diamorphine Assisted Treatment is currently available in Glasgow, and existing national and international evidence demonstrates that this will reduce harm and drug-associated crime. Alternative models – such as an integrated model similar to the scheme which was operated by Foundations in Teesside – should be trialled alongside the Glasgow model for comparative purposes, given they are known to be significantly cheaper without sacrificing any clinical oversight. This was evaluated by Teesside University, producing startling results which prove the efficacy of such a model, in an area with similar levels of tragic drug deaths.
Finally, the government must take steps to improve the speed of access to opioid agonist treatment to ensure that those ready to reduce their use of street opioids are supported to do so within a timeframe that works for them. Given the interrelating issue of homelessness and dependent drug use, there must also be consideration for increased supported housing, whereby people with existing substance use issues are offered a roof over their heads prior to addressing their use. Refusing to house people who use substances is counter-intuitive, as it drives use onto the streets, increasing visibility and drug-related litter.
Drug-related deaths across the UK, but especially in Scotland, represent thousands upon thousands of failures by administrations of all political persuasions, but evidence-based solutions to this crisis, like those proposed today, are available. We lend our support to those calling for the UK government to enact these vital reforms, to improve public health, deliver value for taxpayers, and save lives.
Charlie Mack, Cranstoun CEO, said: We welcome today’s announcement from Scotland calling on the UK Government decriminalise personal possession of drugs to seek to address the tragic drug crisis. Whilst legislative reform must be the goal, we continue to ask the Scottish Government to take steps to save lives which can happen within the existing legislative framework and can happen now.
The redrafting of legislation of the Misuse of Drugs Act is a timely process, and with over 3 people dying a day from drugs in Scotland, it is essential that the Scottish Government continue to explore options such as an integrated diamorphine assisted treatment model, deprioritisation agreements, and the possibility that allowing overdose prevention centres is not in contravention of the act.
This issue is not isolated to Scotland, and amendments to the Act would benefit the UK as a whole by taking major strides towards ending the United Kingdom’s shame of consistently having the highest number of drug deaths in Europe. Aside from averting preventable tragedy, harm reduction measures are proven to save money and reduce the strain on our over-burdened policing and criminal justice system