‘Harm reduction strategy is not working in Scotland’, drugs charity warns

Scotland’s harm reduction policies to tackle the harmful effects of illegal drugs are ineffective in tackling addiction, a campaigner has said.

Annemarie Ward of drugs charity FAVOR UK said Scotland needs to put recovery and rehabilitation ahead of ‘harm reduction’, as the current approach is failing addicts and fuelling addiction.

Police Scotland figures show that drug-related deaths have topped a thousand for the sixth year in a row.

‘Normalising addiction’

Ward said: “Harm reduction may be ‘progressive’ – but it is not working.”

It may also be “the only game in town”, she explained, but without investment in recovery programmes drug users are just “stuck in a never-ending cycle of addiction”.

The campaigner argued that Government quangos, such as the Scottish Drugs Forum, “shape society’s perception of addiction, often minimising the possibility of complete recovery in favour of symptom and behaviour management”.

Schemes such as prescribing methadone, she continued, risk “normalising addiction as a seemingly permanent condition, rather than one that can be effectively addressed through recovery”.

Govt policy failing

In an article for The Scotsman, Susan Dalgety agreed with Ward’s comments, saying: “Harm reduction, favoured by government ministers and national drug agencies alike, is described as being ‘grounded in justice and human rights’.”

But, she contended: “It is harm reduction that led to the widespread therapeutic use of methadone, a major contributory factor in Scotland’s drugs deaths.

“It is harm reduction that prompted the Scottish Government to invest £7 million in the UK’s first drug consumption room which will open in Glasgow later this year.”

Reflecting on the high level of drug-related deaths, she said: “In 2023, 1,197 Scots died from the impact of drugs. Fathers. Sons. Brothers. Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. All dead because of a failure of public policy.”

Illegal drugs

In England, Exeter University has been accused of tacitly condoning the use of illegal drugs in a message to students on its Falmouth campus.

Warning drug users that supplies from local dealers may be contaminated, it advised them to “ideally avoid using alone, or use in a place you will be found, or use a ‘buddy app’ if there is no alternative”.

One student commented: “I think it’s terribly irresponsible of them to not tell students that they should not be taking class-A drugs, and that taking them is completely illegal.”

In response to criticism, the University stated: “We do not condone drug taking and have zero tolerance of any criminal or antisocial behaviour related to drugs, including the supply of drugs.”

Also see:

Over one thousand babies in Scotland born dependent on drugs

Scotland’s Lord Advocate ready to ‘turn blind eye’ on illegal drug use

Oregon rolls back liberal drugs policy