Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton today said the SNP Government must act now to revise its national drugs strategy after drug-related hospitalisations hit an all-time high.
New figures from ISD Scotland reveal that there were 199 drug-related general acute hospital stays per 100,000 population - the highest rate since records began and quadruple the rate in 1996/97.
The statistics also show that in 2017/18, there were 10,509 drug-related general acute hospital stays, compared to 9,525 in 2016/2017.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out a comprehensive 10 point plan to tackle drug and alcohol misuse, including protecting the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships and ceasing sending people caught in possession of drugs for their personal use to prison, instead sending them for treatment and education.
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP commented:
"There has been a devastating increase in drug-related hospital stays and deaths in recent years. The situation continues to deteriorate and this should compel the Scottish Government to go further.
“With more people than ever at the most serious end of the scale, health professionals are run off their feet. Depleted local facilities are still in recovery from the SNP’s brutal cuts to alcohol and drug partnerships.
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats have set out a clear, practical plan of how to turn this around, including protecting partnership budgets, sending people to treatment instead of prison, and establishing proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment. Now is the time to act, before it’s too late for many more people.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat 10 point plan for tackling drug and alcohol misuse calls for:
- A ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships for the duration of the strategy, after the Scottish Government implemented a 20% cut to services in 2016/17;
- A ministerial commitment to cease sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison, as happens hundreds of times a year, and instead send them for treatment and education;
- An explanation of why drug treatment and testing orders, which the strategy says “can have a positive impact on both drug use and offending”, were only used 31 times in response to 4,400 convictions for possession in 2016/17;
- Local authorities to make licensing decisions based on venues’ efforts to keep their customers safe, instead of punishing them for incidents on their premises;
- The Scottish Government to back a regulated cannabis market, taking it out of the hands of criminals and tackling trends including increased potency which the strategy describes as “concerning”;
- The Scottish Government to establish proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment, expanding on preliminary plans for a site in Glasgow;
- Drug-testing to be deployed at localities where there is a need, allowing at risk users to find out what is in a substance and offer advice on harm reduction;
- Adverse childhood experiences to be routinely recorded as recommended by Scottish Government advisor Sir Harry Burns;
- Additional action to address neonatal abstinence syndrome through support for expectant mothers;
- The minimum unit price of alcohol to be raised to 60p to meet the policy’s original ambition and account for inflation in the years that the policy’s implementation was delayed.