Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 12:58 UK

Government unveils drug strategy

Needle and spoon
The government has announced its drugs strategy

The Scottish Government has launched a new five-point strategy aimed at tackling the country's drugs problems.

The government said its focus would be on "recovery and helping people live drug-free lives".

Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing told Holyrood that 94m would be spent over the next three years on tackling drug abuse.

Funding for health board drug treatment programmes will be increased by 3.8%, he announced.

Every household is to get an information leaflet so that parents can warn their children off drugs.

'Inescapable fact'

Mr Ewing stressed the "guiding purpose" of all drug treatment services would be helping addicts into recovery.

He told MSPs: "In the past there has not been enough focus on achieving positive outcomes for people with drug problems. We must make this a priority for the future.

"We will achieve this by reforming how drugs services are planned, commissioned and delivered."

Mr Ewing pointed out Scotland has, per head of population, more drug addicts than most comparable European countries, and added: "That is not something we should accept as an inescapable fact of life."

Professor Neil McKeganey on Scotland's drug problem

There are an estimated 52,000 problem drug users and a further 22,000 on the methadone programme, receiving a prescribed substitute for heroin.

MSPs are to debate and vote on the strategy next week.

The Scottish Government has estimated the cost of the country's drug problem at 2.6bn a year.

Much of that figure comes from the cost of crime, with heroin users needing to find up to 300 a week to feed their addiction, as well as the cost of taking addicts to court and jailing them.

It also includes money spent on healthcare for addicts, and the prescription of substitute drugs like methadone.

There were about 420 drug-related deaths last year.

Labour criticised the strategy as containing broken promises, including a failure to boost spending on tackling drug abuse by 20%.

The party's Pauline McNeill also questioned whether the 94m is an increase on previous budgets, and if the 3.8% for health boards is new.

However, the Tories warmly welcomed the new focus on recovery instead of merely risk and harm reduction.

A recovering addict tells her story

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie said she hoped it would herald a new dawn for Scotland's drug policy.

"Today should be - indeed must be - the start of a new chapter in Scotland and the beginning of a new fight in the battle against drugs abuse," she said.

"Scotland has been scarred by the epidemic which has swept our country. Lives lost, families devastated, communities scarred - the human cost has been enormous, the financial consequences incalculable, the drain on our social services, justice system and NHS immense.

"I congratulate the Scottish Government for coming to terms with the failures of recent years, characterised by an attempt to merely manage the problem rather than attack it head on.

"Scotland has found the political will to fight back. For too long, we have left those who have surrendered their lives to drugs in desperation and devastation. Let today be the day when we offered new hope and real help."

Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Margaret Smith asked how services would improve identification of children in families affected by drug abuse, not just in danger of harm.

She also called for Mr Ewing to confirm that there was "still a place" for methadone where that was right for the individual.

The mother of a recovering addict talks about her experience

David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum, welcomed the government announcement as "a highly ambitious plan of action".

Mr Liddell added: "It acknowledges that medical help or prison sentences on their own are not nearly adequate to help people overcome their drugs problems.

"It makes clear - and rightly so - that providing services, such as family support, housing, and opportunities for education, training and employment, have an enormous part to play in preventing people from developing drugs problems and helping them move away from them."


SEE ALSO
Scotland facing 'drugs Doomsday'
28 May 08 |  Scotland
Methadone costs 'could be 60m'
25 May 08 |  Scotland
Addicts 'not second-class people'
23 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Methadone paradise
17 Mar 08 |  Politics Show

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