Why Scotland has the power to do more on drug deaths - Peter Krykant

Scotland suffered 1,264 drugs’ deaths – this is from 2019.

A man leaves a cross for his brother in Glasgow. Favor Scotland has planted 200 crosses on Valentine’s Day for drug death victims. Picture: John Devlin
A man leaves a cross for his brother in Glasgow. Favor Scotland has planted 200 crosses on Valentine’s Day for drug death victims. Picture: John Devlin

Sadly we do not know how many died in 2020. However, we will not have seen much change. The reason? We have not changed much.

The start of wider Naloxone provision though paramedics and Police Scotland carrying Naloxone is a positive step, originally announced last year.

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However, as we arrive in 2021 so much more needs done.

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As a priority we need to get people who have drug problems into treatment. With less than 40 per cent in any form of treatment compared to more than 60 per cent in treatment in England and Wales, it is no wonder our deaths rates are so much higher.

With multiple assessments and barriers to get a substitute prescription, with long periods of titration onto therapeutic levels of safer supply medications rather than dangerous street drugs and very little access to effective residential rehabilitation, a lot needs implemented quickly if we are to drive these deaths down in 2021.

With the appointment of a specific drug policy minister, I am now hopeful that some of what I and many others have been calling for over a long period will be actioned.

This includes providing instant access to prescribing. We cannot wait weeks when someone asks for help.

The biggest protective factor against overdose death is being in treatment. The third sector can provide that through being allowed to assess and prescribe as they do throughout the rest of the UK.

Overdose prevention centres (OPC) need set up where people are publicly injecting. This is a health response, it supports people into treatment, it reduces discarded equipment and saves NHS resources through hospital admissions due to infection. It also reduces police time with diversions rather than criminalising street drug use.

This is within Scotland’s power. We can introduce simply non-prosecution stances for those attending an OPC.

As someone who supports Scotland’s right to another referendum, we cannot continue to make this a constitutional issue. We must push all boundaries and provide the care and support that people who have any other health issue would get and deserve.

My key message in meeting with the First Minister is – let’s get this done now.

- Peter Krykant is a drugs campaigner and is running as an independent candidate for Falkirk East in May’s Scottish election.

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