Taskforce publishes treatment standards for drug users

Drug policy minister Angela Constance said it would ensure consistency of treatment across the country.

Taskforce publishes treatment standards for drug users Getty Images

New treatment standards for drug users have been published by Scotland’s Drugs Deaths Taskforce.

The introduction of ten new standards is aimed at reinforcing a “rights-based approach” for people who use drugs and the treatment they should expect, regardless of where they live.

They will be applied to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – the term used to refer to the use of medication, such as opioids, together with any psychological and social support, in the treatment and care of people who experience problems with drug use.

Standards include that all people accessing services have the option to start MAT from the same day of presentation, as well as all people being supported to make an informed choice on what medication to use for MAT, and the appropriate dose.

All people will receive support to remain in treatment for as long as requested, whilst all people will receive trauma informed care, as part of the standards.

The standards also provide that all people with co-occurring drug use and mental health difficulties can receive mental health care at the point of MAT delivery.

Funding from the additional £50m for drugs services announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in January will ensure that all Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) are supported by the Scottish Government to embed the standards by April 2022.

Minister for drug policy Angela Constance said: “We now have a set of standards which are safe, accessible and person-centred. These will help ensure consistency of treatment across the country.

“Making help available and giving people an informed choice is an essential part of respecting a person’s rights and dignity.

“It is also an approach which is more likely to be effective and provide people with the support and treatment they need.”

She added: “We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and that is why we allocated an additional £250m over the next five years to improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.

“These MAT standards will mean everyone with problematic drug use can access the right support for them regardless of their situation or location.”

Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, professor Catriona Matheson, said: “The publication of the MAT standards and the start of their implementation represents a major achievement for the taskforce and the beginning of a new phase of our work.

“The standards constitute the most significant intervention in the strategy to reduce the unacceptable level of drug related deaths.

“The standards will form a critical element of the longer-term, sustainable actions that will save lives, complimenting the emergency actions taken to date.

“The evidence is clear that using street drugs and not being in treatment is dangerous and life-threatening. The taskforce wants more people at risk to be in treatment programmes.

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the rapid development of the standards and who are now involved in their rollout and adoption. Commitment like this will help save lives.”

Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell added: “Scotland’s MAT standards are the most significant landmark in improving Scotland’s response to problem drug use in over a decade.

“Implementing the standards will be the most significant development in addressing the ongoing public health emergency of drug-related deaths.”