A new national strategy for tackling Scotland’s drug and alcohol problems was launched in Dundee yesterday.
The government’s Rights, Respect and Recovery Strategy aims to address the wider issues people face, such as housing and employment, while providing support to families with addiction problems.
The £20 million initiative advocates approaching substance misuse as a public health issue, and aims to ensure services are tailored to each individual’s care needs.
This includes diverting vulnerable people away from the criminal justice system, where appropriate, and tackling underlying problems, including mental health.
The strategy also pledges to support families and have them closely involved in a loved one’s treatment, and emphasises education and early intervention for young people and those most at risk of developing problems with alcohol or drugs.
Explaining the strategy as he visited the Cairn Centre, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick – MSP for Dundee West – said: “This strategy takes a more person-centred approach so we’re not just looking at the person’s substance misuse, we’re looking at the person in the wider context because sometimes substance misuse has been triggered by other factors which we need to look at.
“One of the things that we’ve added to the strategy is a focus on stigma.
“Stigma is a barrier to people entering treatment and services which save their lives.
“But I am clear that the ill-health and deaths caused by substance misuse are avoidable and we must do everything we can to prevent them.
“I am clear that we will not shy away from innovative, evidence-based approaches, such as safe drug consumption rooms, even if some find the proposal challenging.
“Our additional investment and this strategy must support lasting change.”
Mr FitzPatrick met service manager Danny Kelly, his team and service users, to hear about
“ODnotMe” campaign, which seeks to dispel myths around overdoses and train more people in the use of naloxone, an overdose reversal medication.
Recent estimates found about 61,500 people aged 15-64 in Scotland misuse opiates and/or benzodiazepines, while about 4% of the adult population have possible alcohol dependency.
There were 934 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year, the highest on record.
David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “We welcome the fact that reducing the number of preventable overdose deaths is the key focus of the strategy.
“In 2018, we are likely to see more than 1,000 Scots die from drug overdoses.”
Earlier this year, Dundee was named drug-death capital of Europe, overtaking Glasgow, with 57 people in the city losing their lives to narcotics last year.
The Cairn Centre is home to a number of organisations which have been set up to help Dundee’s most vulnerable people, including the harm reduction service, which provides advice and support on sex and drug use.
Davy Gardyne, who volunteers with the centre and has struggled with alcohol addiction, said: “Intervention only helped me by 50%.
“I think people need to realise recovery is not going to land on your lap.
“I think the strategy is a great idea. Dundee has to be seen to be doing something about the issue.”