Drink and Drugs News DDN December 2018 | Page 4

News ‘HEALTH APPROACH’ FOR NEW SCOTTISH DRUGS STRATEGY SCOTLAND’S NEW DRUGS STRATEGY will take a ‘health approach’ and address wider problems such as housing, mental health, family support and employment, the Scottish Government has announced. Rights, respect and recovery also aims to ensure that services ‘treat people as individuals’. The document replaces the 2008 strategy The road to recovery, and follows the new Preventing harm alcohol framework (see facing page). The Scottish Government will produce an action plan for the strategy early next year, it states. This year saw Scotland once again record its highest ever number of drug-related deaths, at 934 (DDN, July/August, page 4), with its fatality rate the highest of any EU country. The strategy takes a ‘human rights-based, person- centred’ approach, with a focus on those who are most at risk. Families will receive proper support and ‘be closely involved in their loved ones’ treatment’, while people who use drugs will also be diverted from the criminal justice system ‘where appropriate’. The strategy also places an emphasis on education and early intervention for young people and those at risk of developing problems. Stigma remains a significant issue, it says, and ‘needs to be challenged across the sector and society’, with integration of services also requiring improvement. While the Scottish Government remains supportive of consumption rooms ‘in response to clear evidence of need’, allowing them would require legislation from Westminster. ‘The Scottish Government will continue to press the UK Government to make the necessary changes in the law, or if they are not willing to do so, to devolve the powers in this area so that the Scottish Parliament has an opportunity to implement this life- saving strategy in full,’ the document states. ‘Improving how we support people harmed by drugs and alcohol is one of the hardest and most complex problems we face,’ said public health minister Joe FitzPatrick. ‘But I am clear that the ill health and deaths caused by substance misuse are avoidable and we must do everything we can to prevent them. This means treating people and all their complex needs, not just the addiction, and tackling the inequalities and traumas HEADS DOWN THE CLOSURE OF ‘HEAD SHOPS’ since the implementation of the Psychoactive Substances Act has seen a ‘large-scale shift away from retailers’, says a government review, with street dealers now the main source of NPS – particularly synthetic cannabinoids. ‘This blanket ban was supposed to cure the UK’s “legal high” problem, including Spice,’ said Transform’s Martin Powell. ‘But as experts warned before the new law was implemented, beyond the cosmetic success of ending legal sales in head shops, little positive has been achieved.’ Review of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 at www.gov.uk 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | December/January 2019 behind substance misuse.’ The strategy would be supported with an ‘additional £20m a year on top of our considerable existing investment in drug and alcohol treatment and prevention’, he stated. ‘We want to see innovative, evidence-based approaches, regardless of whether these make people uncomfortable. This money mustn’t just produce more of the same.’ Joe FItzPatrIck The focus on reducing ‘preventable overdose deaths’ was welcomed by the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF). Deaths had ‘doubled over the period of the last strategy’, said SDF CEO David Liddell, and the new document contained key elements that could help to respond to what amounted to a ‘public health crisis’, such as faster access to opioid replacement therapy and cutting the numbers of people ‘forced out, or allowed to otherwise drop out’ of treatment. ‘Only time will tell whether this is effective but the indicators of success or failure will be clear and stark, and thousands of Scots’ lives depend on it,’ he said. Strategy document at www.gov.scot ‘I am clear that the ill health and deaths caused by substance misuse are avoidable.’ ‘Little has been achieved’. MartIn PoweLL DEADLY DRINKING LAST YEAR SAW 7,697 ALCOHOL-SPECIFIC DEATHS in the UK, according to the latest ONS figures, with death rates highest among 55-59 year-old women and 60-64-year-old men. While Scotland continues to have the highest rate of alcohol-specific deaths, it has also been the only UK country to experience a ‘statistically significant’ reduction since 2001. Scottish men, however, are still twice as likely to die from alcohol-related causes as those in England. Widening the scope of deaths related to alcohol consumption, however, puts the English figure at more than 24,000, according to PHE. Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK at www.ons.gov.uk FOBT OFF THE GOVERNMENT HAS ABANDONED ITS PLANS to delay the reduction in the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, following a rebellion by MPs and the resignation of sports minister Tracey Crouch. While the reduction was announced earlier this year (DDN, June, page 4), in her resignation letter Crouch stated that the original decision to delay its implementation was ‘due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests’. CONSUMPTION CASE THE GOVERNMENT HAS REITERATED ITS OPPOSITION to the opening of a drugs consumption room (DCR) in Glasgow, following a letter from the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group setting out the case for a DCR in the light of record drug deaths (DDN, July/August, page 4). ‘Our position on DCRs has been clear for some time: we have no plans to introduce them,’ said crime minister Victoria Atkins. Consumption rooms did not form part of the drug strategy’s approach of ‘preventing drug use in our communities’, she stated, with the government ‘not prepared to sanction or condone activity that promotes the illicit drug trade and the harm that trade causes to individuals and communities’. CAPTURED CANNABIS SEIZURES OF HERBAL CANNABIS ROSE by more than 140 per cent in 2017-18 compared to the previous year, according to ONS statistics, while cannabis resin seizures increased by more than a third. The volume of crack seized was also up by 64 per cent, to 64kg. Overall drug seizures were down by 2 per cent on the previous year, however, the sixth consecutive annual fall. Seizures of drugs in England and Wales, financial year ending 2018 at www.gov.uk www.drinkanddrugsnews.com