Scotland's Drug Deaths Taskforce says cultural change needed to tackle crisis

A major cultural change is needed to reduce drug deaths in Scotland by reducing stigma and ending discrimination around addiction, a new report says.

The Drugs Deaths Taskforce has published its final report after three years of work examining how to deal with Scotland's drugs deaths crisis.

The Changing Lives report makes 20 recommendations and calls for 139 specific actions to be taken by the Scottish and UK Governments as well as other organisations, saying the approach to drugs should move away from punishment towards care.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously admitted her government took its eye “off the ball” on drug deaths.

A number of changes in the law are recommended, including legislation at a UK level for safe drug consumption rooms to go ahead.

The rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland is higher than any other European country Credit: PA

Cultural change

The Taskforce's chairman, former Chief Constable David Strang, said: "Every day in Scotland three people die of a drug overdose and that is just a shocking statistic.

"Each death is a tragedy obviously for the individual, but for their loved ones, for their families, for their communities, and for the whole of Scotland.

"We believe there should be a public health approach that provides good treatment and service for people with addictions.

"People with addictions have a health condition and they should receive health care on a par with other health conditions.

"Addiction is not a crime and you can't punish people out of addiction."

In recent years the rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland has been far higher than the rest of the UK and higher than any European country.

Members of Scotland's Drug Deaths Taskforce, some of whom have lived experience of drug addiction, say they are hopeful their report will bring about change in the country's ongoing crisis.

However, some charities have been critical of the recommendations in the report, while campaigners say little has changed in the three years since the Taskforce was set up.