We need compassion when dealing with drug misuse, not stigma

We need a person-focused drug policy based on compassion rather than stigma.

Stigma kills, and prevents people from seeking treatment for drug misuse, says the Scottish Greens health spokesperson, Gillian Mackay MSP. 

Speaking in a debate on drug policy, Ms Mackay welcomed the Lord Advocate’s recent advice on safe consumption rooms and called for a system that also focuses on rehabilitation and tackling poverty and trauma.

On safe consumption rooms, Ms Mackay said:

“Safe consumption rooms have been operating in Europe for around thirty years. We know they reduce the risk of overdose and can put people who use drugs in touch with services that can help them. They also reduce the risk of disease transmission and the prevalence of discarded needles. Their introduction is long overdue. 

“When it comes to reducing drug-related deaths we must follow the evidence. But too often progress is blocked by outdated legislation that aims to criminalise people for their drug use.”

Ms Mackay added:

“Stigma kills. It prevents people from seeking treatment and means they are too-seldom met with the kindness and compassion they deserve when they do ask for help.

“Too often media narratives and comments from politicians focus on personal or lifestyle choices, which serve to demonise and other people who use drugs.

“These narratives ignore the fact that Scotland’s high levels of drug use are rooted in the harsh climate of deindustrialisation in the 1980s which devastated communities across the country. 

“Drug use is often inextricably linked with issues such as poverty, multigenerational trauma, and poor mental health. People with high-risk drug use mainly come from already marginalised communities.”

Ms Mackay added:

“Drug-related deaths should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal issue. The Greens therefore believe that drug use should ultimately be decriminalised in Scotland. 

“We will always call on the UK government to engage constructively on this issue but in the absence of any action from Westminster, powers must be devolved to Scotland so we can create a society where no one is criminalised, stigmatised, marginalised or demonised for their drug use.”