The latest drug related death figures for Scotland are a shameful indication that our services are still not geared up to stop these totally preventable deaths of despair.

Every one of these deaths represents a lost loved one, a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend. The ripples of trauma that follow just one early death not only live on in those left behind, but can contribute to the early deaths of others via overdose or suicide. They are also a betrayal of our commitment to the human rights to life, health and the pursuit of happiness.

We’ve heard a lot of talk about ‘following the science’ this year. When are we going to start following the science on drug policy?

Almost all addiction begins with trauma. Addiction begins with pain and ends with pain. The question is never ‘Why the addiction?’ But ‘Why the pain?’ We need to get serious about tackling the environmental factors that cause harmful drug use & addiction – including childhood trauma, inequality of all kinds (including racism and all forms of discrimination) and poverty.

SCSN supports the Scottish Drugs Forum’s call for people to have speedy access to high quality treatment, the choice of treatments that suit them best, the ongoing support they need to stay in treatment and access to any other support they may benefit from. We also support increasing the range of services in Scotland to include heroin assisted treatment, drug consumption rooms and assertive outreach.

From a community safety perspective, we need to accept the fact that the War on Drugs is an abject failure. Rather than preventing crime and saving lives, it is a major driver for crime – including serious organised crime. It causes thousands of unnecessary or preventable deaths across the globe every year, not only through overdoses or poisonings, but through violence – including deaths of law enforcement officers – by creating a war FOR drugs.

Therefore SCSN also backs the evidence based call to learn from countries such as Portugal, by decriminalising all drug use and considering the legalisation and regulation of certain drugs as we have seen done with huge success with Cannabis in many states within the United States and Canada.

Communities in Scotland will be safer places if we take the evidence based public health measures which save lives and stop deaths of despair, with all of the trauma to others that early, preventable deaths cause. Communities will be safer places if highly traumatised drug users are supported to get well or to recover rather than burdened with criminal records relating to their own drug use, harming their future prospects. The criminal justice system will also be less burdened.

Communities will also be safer places if we begin the process of taking drugs out of the hands of criminals and follow the successful example of other countries by reviewing our strict drug prohibition laws and progressively handing over control of drugs to the medics and experts – making drugs safer for those using them and our streets safer from violent criminals.

We cannot go on as we have been. The costs to our economy, the costs to our criminal justice system, the costs to our health service and the cost in lives lost or ruined by our current drug policies are just too high.