Spotlight -

Drug law reform – welcome statements, but we need urgent action to save lives

Today, on International Overdose Awareness Day, the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) at the House of Commons has called for drug law reform and a public health approach to drug use. In July the Scottish Government published ‘A Caring, Compassionate and Human Rights Informed Drug Policy for Scotland’, calling for decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use.

I, and Turning Point Scotland, support these calls for change, and we’ve outlined similar requests in our drug law reform campaign. 

You can watch our drug law reform video for more information on our position here.  

As long as drug use is illegal, people who use drugs problematically will too often be seen as undeserving of the help they need.

Decriminalisation, along with wider reforms, would help solve a lot of the problems we face in tackling drug deaths. But the announcements from the Scottish Government and the HAC won’t lead to change fast enough to save lives. The Westminster Government has confirmed it won’t change its anti-decriminalisation stance any time soon, and they hold the keys to reform.

1,051 people lost their lives to drug related deaths in Scotland in 2022. This figure is down by 279 since the 2021 figures, and this change is clearly welcome. But far too many people are still losing their lives, leaving behind family, friends and communities. All of these deaths were preventable.

Urgent response to save lives, now

We’re proud to deliver the Glasgow Stabilisation Service in partnership with Glasgow HSCP. It keeps people safe from overdose. It stabilises their drug and alcohol use, and it’s an important and unique service. We know it works, and we want to see it replicated across Scotland to help save lives.

This month we heard that the Scottish Government has released monies towards setting up more stabilisation services. But this needs to be done in the right way to really make an impact. We’re pleased to see the commitment, but the way services are set up can make or break their success.

As leaders in stabilisation, we at Turning Point Scotland want to support the Scottish Government, to share our expertise, and see a successful roll out of more services that will save lives.

Drug deaths in Scotland are a public health emergency and need an immediate service-based response. 

I unequivocally support the cause for legal reform, including the calls for decriminalisation. But, this won’t happen quickly enough to save lives in the immediate term. Providing the right services in the right way, right now, will.

Patricia Tracey, Head of Alcohol and Other Drugs, Turning Point Scotland

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