The Faculty of Public Health welcomes this new report from Scottish Government on ‘A Caring, Compassionate and Human Rights Informed Drug Policy for Scotland’.
The paper outlines a sensible, evidence-based approach to drug policy with principles of public health and harm reduction at its foundation.
Drug deaths in Scotland and across the UK constitute a public health crisis, with rates increasing substantially in recent years. In 2020, Scotland saw its highest number of drug deaths on record, with 1,339 drug-related deaths.
As this new report notes, “the rise in drug deaths has been significant enough to contribute to the fall in life expectancy in Scotland. From 2017-2019 to 2019-2021, drug misuse reduced life expectancy by 5.9 weeks for males and 2.5 weeks for females.”
Recognising this public health crisis, the Faculty of Public Health, led by our Drugs Special Interest Group and working with cross-sector partners, has called for a progressive, public health approach to drug policy in the UK including amending the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 to make it easier to pilot overdose prevention centres.
We must have an evidence-based approach to drug policy, which has health at its foundation and does not stigmatise and punish. Evidenced, properly funded programmes to reduce harm are a key cornerstone of an effective population health approach. As the Scottish Government has recommended, this should include the rollout of overdose prevention centres, drug checking services, and diamorphine assisted therapy.
The Faculty commends the Scottish Government for their leadership in this area. Without this legislative reform across the UK, people will continue to use drugs – and continue to die – without the services and support that would protect them from harm.