A Moral Failure
There were more than 1300 drug deaths in Scotland last year. Every one a real person, with their own individual story, now cruelly packaged up and included as a number in the annual figures that shame a nation.
1300 people. The equivalent of over three full Boeing 747’s. Those living in deprived areas are 18 times more likely to die from drugs than those in the least deprived areas. It’s been hard not to conclude that in 2021 Scotland, despite the lofty rhetoric, some lives matter more than others.
There has been the shameful politicisation of this moral failure, with death itself now wielded as a weapon in the never ending constitutional war. However, at long last, it feels like things may be beginning to change, as drug deaths creep up the political agenda and politicians finally begin to do what the Scottish Parliament was designed for; working together to improve Scotland.
Yesterday, two leaders from two opposing tribes came together to focus on drug deaths, visiting Bluevale Community Club. It was a welcome development, but one that for Scotland’s sake, must mean more than a photo opportunity. As Kenny Trainer of Bluevale said of politicians, “…while they’re arguing, people are dying”. Change must happen and it must happen quickly.
We asked Annemarie Ward of FAVORUK three things Scotland could do right now to begin the fightback.
More Rehab Beds
The very first thing Annemarie highlighted was the need for more rehab beds and the shameful lack of them. In Glasgow, there are currently 16 rehab beds for 13,000 drug users and 69,000 alcohol users. You do the maths.
Citing the needs for increased investment, Annemarie however cautions against simply viewing it as big figures = good. She argues that increased funding must be targeted and ring fenced for rehab facilities, as money previously earmarked has been siphoned off throughout the system.
Same Day Substitute Prescriptions
Same day substitute prescriptions for those seeking to get off drugs is also key. Any delay will inevitably increase the chances of relapse, so getting access to those substitute prescriptions as quickly a possible really matters.
Currently, it is significantly quicker in England, with there being a wait of up to 12 weeks in Scotland. Annemarie tells the story of a young man from Leith who was forced to wait weeks for his substitute prescription – something that we can change right now.
However, with this quicker access there must come a change in the entire culture of addiction strategy, which Annemarie highlights as a long term goal. She makes clear that there is currently no exit strategy for those seeking to get clean and that providing people with substitute prescriptions must be an early step, not the final one.
To expedite that necessary culture change, she also calls for people in recovery to be put into leadership positions and providing them with clear, identifiable targets.
Invest In Autonomous Advocacy Services
Annemarie is firm that truly independent and autonomous advocacy services are needed in Scotland. She is critical of those that rely on government funding, as well as health boards for continuing to champion a failing strategy where people who are seeking help are simply being given more drugs.
Linking back to her previous comments on the need for a new strategy, Annemarie says that autonomous advocacy services will fight for the right to genuine treatment and will put the individual first, not the system first. But to do that, they need investment.
Annemarie Ward is the Chief Executive Officer of FAVORUK and can be found @Annemarieward