Experts from Public Health Scotland will today join a virtual roundtable on problem drug use, organised by the UK Parliament Scottish Affairs Committee. The meeting is an opportunity for the committee to hear the views of key stakeholders, following the UK Government’s response to the report the committee published in November last year. The meeting will also explore the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for addressing problem drug use in Scotland.

Last year we provided written and oral evidence to the committee, as part of their comprehensive inquiry. We welcomed the committee’s call for the UK Government to adopt a public health approach to drugs policy, as well as their recommendations to review the impact of welfare sanctions and support whole-system change to address the root causes of problem drug use.

Dr Tara Shivaji, Consultant in Public Health and Head of the Drugs team at Public Health Scotland, said:

"Drug-related deaths and harms are preventable. That is the simple message at the heart of a public health approach to problem drug use in Scotland.

"The rising number of people who have lost their lives as a result of drugs, and the extent of drug-related harm in Scotland, represent an on-going public health crisis and a call to action that cannot be ignored. A public health approach uses evidence, it starts with and ends with people, in their communities and with their experience. It delivers action across the board, from dealing with a crisis to preventing problematic use in the first place.

"Having heard a wide range of evidence the Scottish Affairs Committee concluded that innovative approaches were needed to address the root causes of problem drug use. The committee recommended that problem drug use should be treated as a public health issue with cross-departmental support, for the decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs for personal use, and the opening of a pilot safer drug consumption facility in Glasgow.

"Those recommendations reflect the essence of a public health approach. We believe that the only way to sustain improved outcomes for people affected by problematic drug use in Scotland is to adopt an evidence informed approach that targets the root causes of harms.

"Public Health Scotland will continue to provide national leadership around tackling the harms associated with drugs use, including our work to support the Scottish Drugs Deaths Taskforce through the development of a public health surveillance system and national standards for the consistent delivery of 'no barrier' medication assisted treatment.

"We need to work together to bring about the systematic changes needed to reduce harm and save lives".

Last updated: 24 September 2020