Christmas Eve is traditionally one of those times of the year when you can wrap the final few presents and kick back stress-free with a beverage in the warmth of your home – but that was not the case for Annemarie Ward.
Her Christmas Eve was spent driving frantically across Glasgow to the home of her young cousin, who had entered a drug-induced psychosis due to blue valium, which has been a notorious component in the increase in drug deaths across Scotland in the last year.
Annemarie, 48, is both personally and professionally invested in recovery.
Professionally, she is the chief executive of Faces and Voices of Recovery UK (FavorUK) but, on a personal level, she celebrated 22 years of sobriety from drug addiction in August.
FavorUK has been operating for more than a decade and is an umbrella organisation for recovery communities.
Annemarie and her organisation are as concerned as most about the consistent rise in the numbers lost to drugs in Scotland.
However, she is also one of a growing number of voices across the country increasingly concerned about some of the solutions being proposed in response to the current situation.
Additionally, she is disappointed that the experienced voices of those on the journey of recovery were an afterthought in the membership of the Drug Deaths Task Force convened in July by the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick.
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Annemarie is uneasy about the recent proposal to prescribe pharmaceutical grade heroin, stating that the evidence base for success is limited.
She said: “We at FavorUK support medical responses as one among many potential routes to recovery.”
On safe injection rooms, she said: “It is clear they save lives but the plan to locate one in the city centre of Glasgow, where a fraction of the population lives and takes drugs, is ill-conceived.”
She also has reasonable reservations concerning decriminalisation.
I asked her what the Scottish Government’s priority should be.
She replied: “A residential rehabilitation facility.”
In Glasgow, Annemarie said that just over a decade ago, 47% of the budget allocated to support addicts in their recovery was used to get people into residential rehabilitation centres.
However, the current budgetary figure is less than 1%, meaning only 14 people in Glasgow were sent to rehab in the last year, despite it having had an incredibly positive success rate.
This time of year is traditionally also a time for reflection and resolution.
I believe we need a national resolution to end drug deaths and what Annemarie calls “epidemic proportions of addiction in Scotland”.
However, my great concern is that the Scottish Government, in its search for solutions, lurches towards options which are unsatisfactory and, in turn, sacrifice many more lives on the altar of addiction.