Scotland failing to tackle drugs problem, expert warns

Scotland is being “overtaken” by a drug problem which the Government is failing to treat as seriously as alcohol abuse, a leading drugs expert has warned.

Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drugs Misuse Research, made the comments to Scotland on Sunday following the recent death of a 17-year-old girl who is believed to have taken an ecstasy-like drug.

Dr McKeganey said it is “heart-breaking” that young people with every potential are ending up as “corpses on a mortuary slab”, but said that is “the reality of the drug problem”.


He said: “It is staggering to me that we don’t seem to be able to tackle it given the force and commitment that other topics in Scotland receive.”

Describing the Scottish Government’s attitude towards dealing with alcohol abuse, Dr McKeganey said: “I don’t know why the Scottish Government can’t address our illegal drug problem with the same courage and conviction that it is tackling our alcohol one”.

Dr McKeganey has previously urged the UK Government not to move towards decriminalising drugs.


A European drug addiction survey in 2012 showed that Scotland came top in Europe for illegal substance use.

And a report on drugs and alcohol services in Scotland from 2009 estimated that close to two per cent of the population misused drugs, which is double the level in England.

The study also showed that drug-related deaths in Scotland were among the highest in Europe.


Dr McKeganey warned that drugs seizures and prevention campaigns were falling short.

“I believe that, as these deaths occur, simply raising the risks that these drugs pose is inadequate as a response”.

He called for a “co-ordinated and continuous drug prevention programme at a national level”.


Drugs legislation is dealt with at Westminster, but the Scottish Government has control over its approach to tackling the problem of drugs.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We are determined to do all that we can within available legislation to tackle the damaging impact of drugs in Scotland.”

She added: “We have maintained record amounts of money in frontline drug services and support, with drug treatment waiting times dramatically reduced.”