Scotland faces a series of “significant challenges” in its fight against drug deaths that need to be tackled swiftly, an expert has urged.
Dr Tessa Parkes, deputy convener of thinktank Drugs Research Network Scotland (DRNS), has called on the Scottish and UK governments to come together “immediately” to offer users “unconditional” support.
Dr Parkes said: “We need to address the social and personal factors that make some people vulnerable to experiencing problems with drugs, including poverty, inequalities, poor mental health and adversity.
“Treatment should be accessible and acceptable to people who want to address their drug use.
“Peer support is a vital complement to treatment services and can provide a community and the kind of unconditional support people need.”
Drugs deaths in Scotland have risen steadily since 1996 and rose by 50% in the space of a year in Dundee between 2016 and 2017.
Dr Parkes fears this trend will continue unchallenged unless swift action is taken – but has warned “decades” of work lie ahead.
Several working groups could help to guide the direction of future legislation.
The Scottish affairs committee at Westminster is due to issue some recommendations on drug policies across Scotland and the UK in the autumn.
The Scottish Government has also convened a Drugs Death Taskforce to examine what can be done with Scotland’s existing powers.
Dundee’s drugs commission is set to issue its recommendations on local services next month.
“This is not a new phenomenon,” Dr Parkes added.
“This is an ongoing and growing issue that calls for collective action.
“ In terms of policy we now need to consider a range of social policy areas including health and social care, welfare, employment, and crime and justice.”