UK Government Cannot Continue To Ignore The Case For Change

Scottish Families Response to Home Affairs Committee Report on Drugs published 31.08.23

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families

Scottish Families welcomes today’s cross-party report on Drugs published by the Home Affairs Committee at Westminster. The Committee members, the majority of whom are Conservative MPs, have taken the time to collect a wide range of evidence about drug use and drug harm from across the UK and overseas. This includes written and oral evidence, and visits to see what is going on in different parts of the UK. On the basis of all of this evidence, they have made a series of important recommendations to reduce drug harm for individuals, families and communities.

It is notable that all of these recommendations have been made before, including by the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, the Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs, the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, Scottish Families’ own Family Reference Group (who published a companion report to the Taskforce report), and more locally based bodies such as the Dundee Drugs Commission and Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drugs Commission. All of these bodies also examined the national and international evidence base before reaching the same conclusions.

Families affected by a loved one’s drug use have repeatedly shown their support for any measures which reduce harm, including overdose prevention centres, drug-checking, a trauma-informed (not justice) response, and for diversionary measures to ensure their loved ones get the support they need, rather than a criminal record. Most families we support have experience of their loved ones getting involved in the justice system, and they say this has never resulted in positive outcomes, and indeed it has increased harm for the individual and for the wider family. Thousands of family members and members of the public in Scotland now carry naloxone provided by Scottish Families’ Click and Deliver service, so that they can save a life.

Harm reduction measures such as those proposed by the Home Affairs Committee have a strong international evidence base that they reduce drug deaths, harm and risk, consequently improving the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Drugs, said:

“It is difficult to see how the UK Government can continue to ignore the case for change. The 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act is woefully out of date. Overdose prevention centres (or safe drug consumption facilities) are proven to reduce harm and save lives, not only as seen overseas but also through Peter Krykant’s overdose prevention van in Glasgow which was independently and positively evaluated. Drug-checking is already operational at festivals, and through the Welsh service Wedinos, reducing the risk of drugs not being what they seem. Scotland has led the way in the UK by rolling out naloxone supply at large scale to families and others likely to witness opioid overdose, with Police Scotland now the first force in the UK to routinely carry naloxone as part of their kit.

“Drugs policy already sits within a public health, not criminal justice, framework in Scotland, showing this can be done without diminishing the focus on tackling drugs supply by organised crime groups and criminal gangs. We have heroin assisted treatment available in Glasgow as well as elsewhere in the UK – again with a strong evidence base that this works well with this patient group, saving lives, improving lives and reducing crime. Police arrest referral and diversion schemes are in operation across the UK, although as the Committee notes, there is unfortunately a postcode lottery, meaning some people are being unnecessarily criminalised and not able to access the support they need, just because of where they live. None of this needs to be tested, piloted or demonstrated as safe or effective, as this has already been done. We just need to see it happen. Surely now the UK Government will listen and take action to save lives?”

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