Those Scots!, So Pragmatic about Street Disorder
A report published by a Scottish Parliament-backed think tank has called for radical new ways to tackle the damage done by drugs and alcohol. Recommendations include the setting up of "consumption rooms" where addicts would be able to take drugs safely, and for heroin to be prescribed to users.
The report also suggested the taxation of cannabis to enable it to be more tightly regulated.
The Scotland's Futures Forum was asked to look at ways of tackling addiction.
The think tank was established by the parliament and was tasked with looking at the challenges facing Scotland, and seeking ways to meet those challenges.
In this latest report it asked how the damage caused by alcohol and drugs in Scotland could be halved by 2025.
It said drug use had been historically seen as a justice issue but should be treated as a health, lifestyle and social challenge.
The report said a greater proportion of resources should be allocated to treatment research, monitoring and evaluation.
It examined the idea of drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment to combat the high levels of drug-related deaths and hepatitis C infection.
It also studied law enforcement and found prison unproductive and unsustainable for low-level alcohol and drug offences.
The forum believes cannabis should be taxed and highly regulated to help reduce availability and harm.
Former health minister Susan Deacon, who is now professor of social change at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said it was important to be "open-minded" about the possible solutions to the drugs problem.
She said: "No-one is saying that there should not be an important enforcement element in drugs policy or the justice system does not have a role to play but I think there is widespread concern that there has been a disproportionate emphasis on criminal justice issues.
"We must look at drugs, alcohol and wider addiction problems as being health and social matters not simply matters which should be looked at within our criminal justice system."
Canadian Senator Larry Campbell, who was behind the setting up of injection sites in Vancouver in 2003, said addiction should be treated as an illness.
He said: "We have 600 injections a day on average, we have had over 1,000 overdoses in the clinic, and we have never had one person die. - If they had been injecting in an alley or in a room by themselves, we would have had a number of people dead. - Secondly we have seen our HIV and hepatitis rates stabilise because they are not using dirty needles."
He also added that more people were getting treatment for addiction, and street disorder had decreased as a result of the injection rooms.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/7442773.stm