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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2008, 02:47 GMT
Addicts 'not second-class people'
Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website

A syringe and a spoon
Ministers want to recognise drug users' aspirations
Drug users should not be treated as second-class citizens and deserve the same right to care as everyone else, the Scottish Government has said.

The comments came as drug experts recommended a major shift in treatment to focus on recovery.

The move, in a report out next week, was welcomed by Holyrood ministers.

It came after a senior Tory claimed a lack of emphasis on abstinence was leaving heroin patients on methadone in a state of suspended animation.

The number of people treated for heroin use in Scotland reached record levels, according to figures released by the Scottish Government in July 2007.

With the development of a new national drugs strategy, there has perhaps never been a more fitting time to raise aspirations
Dr Brian Kidd
Drug treatment expert

About 21,000 people were said to be using methadone to help them with their addiction.

Now, the Scottish advisory committee on drug misuse has said ministers should revamp drug treatment policy to put patient aspirations at the centre of care - an approach already used to treat mental health patients.

Speaking ahead of the publication of its report, advisory committee member Dr Brian Kidd, said: "We believe there needs to be a major change in the philosophy of care for problem substance use in Scotland.

"This will not be achieved overnight but, with the development of a new national drugs strategy, there has perhaps never been a more fitting time to raise aspirations."

Childcare aspiration

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said it was essential that people with drug problems had access to employment, housing and other services which would help rebuild their lives.

"Substance users have the right to the same care and treatment as the rest of us and shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens," he said.

"But these rights must come with responsibilities. Many will already have responsibilities like bringing up and caring for children, but they should also be able to earn a wage, contribute to society and adhere to the law of the land."

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken was criticised by some drug experts following his claims to BBC Scotland that many Scots drug addicts were sitting "fat, dumb and happy" on methadone.

He has stood by his comments, saying the drugs strategy had to vastly improve abstinence-based projects to help users regain normal lifestyles.



SEE ALSO
Drug addict comments spark storm
16 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Heroin treatment at record levels
23 Jul 07 |  Scotland
Birth control call for methadone
11 May 06 |  Scotland

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