A national drugs taskforce is to prioritise emergency response in reducing drug-related deaths.
Meeting for the first time, the Drug Deaths Taskforce – which included the First Minister – is working to reduce drug-related deaths in Scotland by introducing new policies and building on ones already in place.
Minister for drugs policy Angela Constance said the taskforce hoped to build on the momentum already in place to support those living with addiction.
Constance said: “Meeting the taskforce for the first time was a key opportunity for me to recognise the hard work that has already been done, and to hear ideas of how we can build on the plans we have.
“We are determined to lead a national mission to deliver a step change in the action taken to reduce harm and promote recovery to save lives.
“I want to continue building on the momentum to ensure we take the actions necessary to reduce Scotland’s drug deaths and better support those living with addiction.
“This includes prioritising those areas of emergency response which the taskforce have identified as being effective in reducing drug deaths, such as the distribution of naloxone and the introduction of vital support to people following a non-fatal overdose.
“However, reducing drug deaths, and getting more people into treatment, also requires us to address the stigma related to substance use and addictions.
“Today we heard from some of those with lived experience about the development of a national stigma charter, something which the Scottish Government is hugely supportive of.
“Every step of the journey must be shaped by lived experience, and expand on the best practice seen in other areas of government such as the care review, social security, homelessness and the independent living fund. We will build on that good practice and learn from that work, but make it bespoke to drugs policy.
“The pandemic has demonstrated how it is possible to make rapid and effective changes – today we focused our discussion on where we can replicate that pace of action where possible, accelerate the work needed to tackle and reduce the harm of drug misuse, support the rehabilitation and recovery of those living with drug addiction and reduce the unacceptable number of deaths from drugs.
“This meeting has given us a lot of useful information to consider ahead of the First Minister’s update to parliament later this month, where she will update not only on the work of the taskforce but the wider work we are undertaking.”
Scottish Conservatives shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “Today’s taskforce meeting is welcome but overdue. How many more lives have been lost since these figures were revealed last month?
“The time for talking is over. Scotland is home to world class rehabilitation facilities – we must now use them to save lives.”