Scots plan to drop ‘harm reduction’ drugs policy

The Scottish Government is set to announce a new five-point plan to tackle Scotland’s growing drugs problem.

The plan is reported to include a move away from the ‘harm reduction’ policy which includes keeping abusers hooked on methadone as a substitute for heroin.

Instead the Scottish Government says it will focus on “recovery and helping people live drug-free lives”.

Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing MSP, will make a formal statement to parliament later. MSPs will have an opportunity to debate and vote on the strategy next week.

The Scottish Government estimates that the drug problem costs taxpayers £2.6 billion each year. There are an estimated 22,000 drug abusers on the methadone programme in Scotland.

Prof McKeganey of Glasgow University’s Centre for Drug Misuse Research has attacked the current methadone programme.

He said: “I think far too much [money] is being absorbed by the methadone programme.

“I think we need to refocus where that money is spent. We need to massively increase the availability of residential rehabilitation… at the moment our treatment centres are log-jammed.”

Jim McBride, the addictions manager for Glasgow City Council, describes the drug problem as “Sheer devastation”.

“Coupled with deprivation and poverty [that] has meant that we’re now seeing third generations of people coming through our services,” he said.

“The impact not just on the individual, but on their children, their families and the communities they live in, has really given an understanding of the sheer scale of the problem we face.”