Scotland’s health minister has said safe spaces for people to take drugs could be introduced in a bid to help tackle the fallout of addiction.
Aileen Campbell was speaking at the launch of Dundee’s new Drugs Commission, which aims to tackle substance misuse in the city.
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.
Addressing the audience at the West Park Conference Centre in Perth Road, Ms Campbell said Dundee has the third-highest prevalence of drug misuse in Scotland.
She said: “Given the challenging circumstances that many people in and around Dundee face on a daily basis, this is concerning but not surprising.”
The minister went on to say that to tackle the issue in Dundee, centres to allow addicts a safe place to take substances could be an option.
She said: “I am prepared to look at the possibility of introducing safe drug taking centres in the city if it is shown that this is what the people of Dundee want.
“I would be prepared to talk to the UK Government about this if it is believed this is a way forward based on local evidence.”
Her pledge was welcomed by chairman of Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership Ken Lynn.
Mr Lynn said: “I am encouraged that the minister said she is prepared to look at safe injecting centres for heroin and other drugs. This could be a positive way forward for Dundee but we need to look at what would work for every individual in the city.”
Chairing the meeting, Dr Drew Walker, director of NHS Tayside Public Health and chairman of Dundee Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said: “This plan outlines the vision, key priorities and actions to improve the lives of individuals and families in Dundee affected by substance misuse.
“We want to work with local people to challenge what has been seen as the inevitability of substance misuse in some of our communities and to achieve significantly improved outcomes in terms of prevention of prevalence, drug-related deaths and recovery.
“We know we will need to work in a radically different way.
“There can be no doubt that services in Dundee need to be transformed.”
One woman speaking at the conference said her son is a drug addict whose addiction led to her having a mental breakdown.
His addiction also cost his parents thousands of pounds as well as causing them untold mental and physical distress. The woman said: “I am the mother of a drug addict. This addiction has affected our lives for the past 18 years. For the past five years, this situation has been unmanageable.
“Two years ago I had a mental breakdown. Our son’s addiction has affected us financially, mentally and physically. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I became very unwell and had a breakdown.”