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Drugs debate should have medical necessity at its heart

November 3, 2012 4:32 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie MSP, has condemned hysterical and simplistic approaches to tackling drug misuse ahead of next week's Scottish Parliament debate on Scotland's drugs strategy.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Willie Rennie warns that methadone must not be made a scapegoat for Scotland's continuing drug problem.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

"The debate around drug misuse and the connected methadone programme has taken a disturbing turn in recent months with moral rather than professional judgements dominating the drugs dilemma.

"Drug related deaths reached an all-time high last year so it is vital that we give professionals all the tools they need to help people, including tools aimed at reducing the harms associated with drug misuse.

"While much of the recent focus has been on the overall number of deaths in which methadone was involved, other substances were involved in nearly 60% of these deaths.

"This shows that drug addiction is an extremely complex issue.

"The suggestion from Labour that methadone treatment should be time or cost limited risks undermining the work that drug professionals are doing every day in our communities.

"Methadone is responsible for saving and stabilising many lives and could be regarded as a success for thousands of individuals.

"The key issue is getting people into treatment as soon as possible and ensuring that a whole range of recovery options are available. Another big issue is whether individuals stay engaged with treatment and enjoy a good relationship with the key workers involved in their care.

"Every drug addict is different. There should be no one-size-fits-all approach.

"We need a flexible and patient focussed approach. Politicians should not seek to restrict options for moral reasons but ensure that trained professionals are able to deliver the service they think best for the patient."

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP added:

"Rather than a narrow focus on methadone, the debate around Scotland's drug strategy should focus on the wider issue, and give people the chance to turn their lives around with support that addresses all the issues in the life of the addict, not just the addiction.

"Drug misuse is a health problem, but the solutions are not only medical. Individuals also need help with things like mental health, housing and lack of work skills.

"Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see more help for addicts in recovery with volunteering opportunities and sheltered employment.

"We should be doing more to promote the initiatives of the Scottish Drugs Forum in this regard."