SCOTTISH ANTI-DRUGS STRATEGY MOVES FROM METHADONE DEPENDENCE TO REHAB
Opposition wins concessions
A new Scottish anti-drugs strategy by this summer will see a sharp move away from dependence on methadone to treat addicts, with more rehabilitation effort, writes DOUGLAS FRASER in the Scottish Herald [7 February].
It is aimed at more Drug Testing and Treatment Orders (DTTOs) in court sentences, possibly extending to Children’s Panels. Ministers also want to crack down on drugs in prisons with more testing. But there is no sign of help for the estimated 50,000 children who live with drug-addicted parents.
The pledges were made in letters to opposition parties by Fergus Ewing, minister responsible for drugs policy, as part of the Budget negotiations. He wrote to Bill Aitken, the Conservative justice spokesman, promising there will be more emphasis on promoting abstinence and more residential rehabilitation. Officials are now starting a review of drugs budgeting , to report by spring next year.
The DTTO plans are with strong provisos that Lothian and Border pilots must prove their effectiveness before they are used in all courts. Drug test orders for children will form part of a separate youth justice strategy, also due by summer. Ewing told LibDem justice spokeswoman Margaret Smith that he wants the strategy to respond to her call for more education to warn against drugs. She has also secured a promise that a team of drug experts will advise on the new strategy.
The initiative is a significant shift towards a new cross-party consensus on Scotland’s serious drug problems.
According to addiction expert Professor Neil McKeganey of Glasgow University, the political shift is a challenge to those who work in the field to reduce dependence on methadone, with a switch to more difficult measures to get people off drugs. Drug workers will need re-training. And, with about 25,000 Scots on methadone, there will be difficult decisions about who takes priority for expensive treatment. He also urged for more to be done for children who live with addicts. “They live in desperate circumstances and are among the most vulnerable people we have,” he said.
BUDGET HEALTH CHECK:
- New screening programmes and phasing out prescription charges, £25m.
- Reducing hospital waiting times, £90m.
- Tackling poverty, £145m.
- Alcohol misuse, smoking, obesity, £47m.