The chairman of Dundee’s new drugs commission has said his top priority is to stop people dying because of their addiction.
Dr Robert Peat was speaking to the Tele following the announcement that he is to head the newly formed group set up to tackle substance misuse and drug addiction in the city.
He admits that ‘shooting galleries’ – the “setting up of safe places for people to take drugs” – is one of the options to address the problem.
Dr Peat has spent 30 years working with addicts as a social worker and was director of social work and health and deputy chief executive of Angus Council. He said: “I hope to bring my knowledge and experience to this new commission.”
The drugs commission was launched in Dundee at the end of last month by Scotland’s health minister Aileen Campbell.
At the launch, she said to deal with the issue in Dundee — where there were 12 drug-related deaths in January alone — some controversial or unpopular measures might have to be taken.
Dr Peat said: “This is about people’s lives. We want to get the death rates because of drug addiction down. We may have to look at some controversial methods to do this but we can’t afford to shy away.
“If the one thing we achieve is stopping drugs killing people then I believe we will have been successful.
“I have worked in the field for 30 years and hope to bring my knowledge and experience to this new commission.
“We are facing a major challenge and we know this isn’t going to be easy. We will be working with partner agencies to reduce levels of harm to people who use and inject drugs.
“If this involves methods that some people find controversial but have been proven elsewhere to work then I am prepared to look at them.
“This could be the setting up of safe places for people to take drugs or it could be something we haven’t yet thought about here in Dundee.
“That’s what the commission is all about – to look over the next year at realistic ways to deal with the drugs problem in Dundee.
“During this process we will be talking with all sorts of people, including addicts and their families themselves. We are very keen to hear from anyone whose life has been affected by drugs in any way to see what we can learn from them.
“Over the past 30 years a lot of people have tried to make a difference and it does seem that we are no further forward.
“But I believe we can make a difference and will be looking at anything it takes to achieve our goal of no further deaths.”
The commission will be made up of a panel of members from various fields, including charities, health workers, medical professionals and politicians.
Dundee’s Alcohol and Drugs Partnership will take overall strategic responsibility and leadership on all issues relating to substance misuse.
It has identified four strategic priorities. The first, children and families, seeks to identify and help kids at risk of early initiation into alcohol and drug use.
Prevention and protection aims to take an early intervention approach with a clear link to sexual health and blood-borne virus risks, to minimise the harm to children, families and individuals.
The third priority, recovery, will promote safety, health and wellbeing to help people achieve personal goals.
The final priority, resilient communities, aims to build resilience within local areas and to ensure communities are knowledgeable about the harmful effects of alcohol overconsumption and drug misuse.
Dr Peat said that the commission was likely to have 18 members, taken from various background including public and civic leaders, addiction and psychiatry services, medical experts, family cares as well as addicts and their families.
The first meeting will take place in May.