Decriminalisation needed to end drug death crisis, committee says
Drugs should be decriminalised and safe consumption rooms introduced in order to halt Scotland’s “spiralling drug crisis”, the Scottish Affairs committee has said.
Following its inquiry into problem drug use, the committee concluded a “radical” overhaul of UK drugs policy is needed to tackle the number of drug related-deaths.
But it also said that the Scottish Government needs to do more to fund drug-related health treatment if it is to ask for more powers in this area.
The recommendations were made in a report following the committee’s seven month-long inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland.
In the report the committee said that the UK Government’s approach to drugs policy is “not evidence based”.
The committee said an overall “public health approach” should be adopted, suggesting the responsibility for drugs policy should be transferred from the Home Office to the Department for Health and Social Care instead.
The committee also said the UK Government should give the Scottish Government permission to run a trial of safe consumption rooms as an “immediate solution” to the crisis.
These facilities would allow people who use drugs to consume them in an environment with sterile equipment while being supervised by medical staff which the committee says would reduce overdoses, drug-deaths and lower rates of infection, as has been observed in other countries.
Evidence was gathered from agencies, health services, academics, governments, those with lived experience as well families who have been affected by problem drug use.
The committee also visited Portugal, Germany and Canada to examine the evidence from international examples.
Deaths from drug use reached an all-time high of 1,187 people last year, making Scotland the country with the highest per capita drug deaths in the developed world.
The committee described the rise in drug deaths in Scotland as “relentless” and “tragic” and said that measures should be considered to reduce the stigma surrounding drug use.
Committee chair, Pete Wishart, said: “Throughout our inquiry we heard tragic accounts of the pain and suffering that problem drug use is causing in Scotland.
“If this number of people were being killed by any other illness, the Government would declare it as a public health issue and act accordingly.
“The evidence is clear – the criminal justice approach does not work. Decriminalisation is a pragmatic solution to problem drug use; reducing stigma around drug use and addiction, and encouraging people to seek treatment.”