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Choose Life: Tackling Scotland's Drug Deaths Emergency

Scotland's facing the highest number of drug deaths since records began in 1996 - with a staggering 27% increase in 2018. With statistics showing Scotland to be the "drug death capital of the world", calls for the decriminalisation and/or devolution of drug laws have intensified. However, we need to act - this event will look at what we can do now to minimise drug deaths. 

The Context

In 1997, drug-related deaths were just 224.  Fast-forward to 2019 and we have 60,000 problem users in Scotland and a death rate eight-times higher than the rest of the EU. 

The ‘War on Drugs’ ordained by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (the criminal justice approach taken by the UK Government) was deemed to have failed primarily because it reinforces the social stigma associated with drug use, making it harder for people to seek help. In light of this, Scottish Government called for the Home Office to either decriminalise the possession of drugs or devolve the powers to Scotland so that the Scottish Government may pursue such a policy approach.

There have been numerous responses offered but people overdosing in Scotland do not have the luxury of waiting for the political cog to turn. This policy event will focus on what can be done in Scotland now – without, or prior to, the devolution of powers – to stem the tide of consistently increasing drug-related deaths.

We will examine the merits of Police Scotland operating under a policy of de-facto decriminalisation, which is already having positive results across the UK, and analyse how Recorded Police Warnings might be implemented in practice.

Attendees will consider the Scottish Government’s Rights, Respect and Recovery Action Plan 2019 – 2021, focusing particularly on prevention, early intervention and reducing stigma.

Finally, we will turn our attention to what collaboration can be furthered and deepened across public sector in Scotland to tackle deep-rooted issues and improve the life chances and the quality of life of users and their families without (or prior to) the devolution of drug laws.

Key Issues We’ll Address With You

  • Context – why are drug-related deaths so high in the UK and what are the strategic policy options to tackle the root causes of this?
  • Extension of the Scottish Government's Harm Reduction approach, embodied in its Rights, Respect & Recovery Action Plan 2019 - 2021 and discussion of practical measures in implementing it to save lives
  • Merits of Fixed site needle exchanges; the scaled-up use of naloxone, the implementation of a "smart justice" and/or de-facto de-criminalisation through RPWs and diversionary schemes and the Safe Consumption Facility requested by Glasgow City Council
  • Developing an early-intervention, preventative nexus targeted at children at-risk of ACES
  • Widening and deepening cross-agency collaboration to tackle drug deaths without the pooling capacity of SCFs
  • Housing, welfare and poverty-relief solutions and mental/primary care interventions to stem the tide of drug-related deaths

Confirmed Speakers

  • Dr Andrew McAuley, Senior Research Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University & Member, Scottish Government Partnership for Action on Drugs (Chair)
  • Professor Catriona Matheson, Chair, Drug Deaths Task Force, Scottish Government & Professor in Substance Use, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling
  • Dave Liddell, CEO, Scottish Drugs Forum
  • John Alexander, Leader, Dundee City Council
  • Dr John Budd, GP, Edinburgh Access Practice and Chair, North Edinburgh Drug & Alcohol Centre
  • Supt Gary L'Anson, Drugs Strategy Lead, Glasgow Division, Police Scotland
  • Supt Tim Ross, Police Scotland 
  • Andrew Horne, Interim Executive Director, We Are With You Scotland (Addaction Scotland)
  • Elinor Dickie, Public Health Intelligence Advisor, NHS Health Scotland
  • Justina Murray, CEO, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs 

Agenda

09:30 Registration and Refreshments

10:25 Welcome and Introduction from the Chair

Dr Andrew McAuley, Senior Research Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University & Member, Scottish Government Partnership for Action on Drugs 

10:30 Session 1: Context

Professor Catriona Matheson, Chair, Drug Deaths Task Force, Scottish Government & Professor in Substance Use, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling

John Alexander, Leader, Dundee City Council 

Dave Liddell, CEO, Scottish Drugs Forum

11:10 Questions and Discussion

11:30 Interactive Session

This peer-to-peer learning exercise will allow delegates to interact, discuss problems and issues they have came across in their own professional (and personal) backgrounds; offer solutions in an open forum and generate further discussion for use at the designated Question and Discussion sessions throughout the remainder of the day.

12:00 Refreshments and Networking

12:20 Session 2: Delivering Harm-Reduction In Practice 

  • Discussion as to the effectiveness of this as a policy objective in reducing stigma in turn to encourage problem drug users to come forward to seek help in the short-term
  • Focus on practical actions that can be delivered now without recourse to changing legislation: such as the increased use of naloxone; re-proliferation of fixed-site needle exchanges; the implementation of a 'smart justice' approach and de-facto decriminalisation by way of RPWs and diversion schemes, not unlike those operated by other police forces within the UK
  • Focus on the merits of Safe Consumption Rooms, around which, a lot of the political controvery has coalesced. 

Supt Gary L'Anson, Drugs Strategy Lead, Glasgow Division, Police Scotland & Supt Tim Ross, Police Scotland 

Andrew Horne, Interim Executive Director, We Are With You Scotland (Addaction Scotland)

13:50  Session 3: Familial Social Stigma and ACES: Early Intervention to Prevent the Next Wave of Drug Death Tragedies  

In the recently-published Rights, Respect and Recovery Action Plan, the Scottish Government has pledged to “establish an expert group to develop a programme of work to address the stigma experienced by all people affected by problem…drug use including family members,” to commence in 2020. Given that evidence suggests that adults who experienced 4 or more ACEs were 11 times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin, that the majority of drug users have experienced an ACE, and that drug use is 17 times more likely in Scotland’s poorest areas compared to its richest, preventative policy such as this is imperative if we are to prevent the seeds of another 30 year crisis being sown by the austerity policies pursued by the UK Government since 2010, as they were throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Justina Murray, CEO, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs 

14:15 Session 4: Facilitating interface between health, social care and justice system

One of the arguments for a Safe Consumption Facility (SCF) in Glasgow is that in places where such facilities exist, for example in British Columbia, is that they can be a gateway to other services such as primary care, psychiatrists, psychologists, councillors, welfare and housing officers. The Scottish Government also claims that in order to maximise such cross-agency collaboration, drug laws should be devolved. However, in the absence of the desired legal framework, there is still collaboration which can be widened and deepened.

Dr John Budd, GP, Edinburgh Access Practice and Chair, North Edinburgh Drug & Alcohol Centre

Elinor Dickie, Public Health Intelligence Advisor, NHS Health Scotland 

Senior Representative, Social Care

Senior Representative, Prisons

14:55  Questions and Discussion

15:20  Closing Remarks from Chair

Dr Andrew McAuley, Senior Research Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University & Member, Scottish Government Partnership for Action on Drugs 

15:30 Close of Event

*Please note that the agenda is subject to change

Get In Touch

or call Adam on 0131 285 1692

If you have an inspiring case study or a project that you think is relevant, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We are always on the lookout for new speakers. 

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Categories

Society & Welfare

Date
03 Sep 2020
Venue
Dynamic Earth, Salisbury Suite, Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AS
Cost
Reduced Rate
1 place £145+ VAT

Voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income of less than £1m

Standard Rate
1 place £245+ VAT | 2+ places £195+ VAT per place

Public sector organisations and voluntary/charitable organisations with an annual income over £1m

Private Sector Rate
1 place £295+VAT | 2+ places £245+ VAT per place

Commercial organisations e.g. plc, Ltd, LLP

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