Sturgeon: third sector has key role in tackling addiction crisis

Nicola sturgeon at the south glasgow drug and alcohol recovery hub 3

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the creativity of charities can help reduce drug deaths in Scotland

13th August 2019 by Gareth Jones 1 Comment

Scotland's third sector can play a key role in tackling the country's addiction crisis, the first minister has said.

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland soared to 1,187 last year, meaning that the country has the highest drug death rate in the European Union.

Ministers have said it is time to treat the nation’s issues with addiction as a public health issue, and Nicola Sturgeon, speaking exclusively to TFN, has asserted the third sector will play a key role in addressing the crisis.

“The third sector can play a huge role in tackling the challenge of deaths from addiction,” Sturgeon said.

“It goes back to my time as health secretary – I see with my own eyes week in week out the role that third sector organisations play in tackling complex problems.

“There tends to be a creativity in the third sector, and I don’t see this as a criticism of the statutory sector, than in other sectors and a focus on lived experience amongst organisations.

“Its role is enormous and one that we are seeking to build upon.”

The first minister was speaking at the relaunch of the South Glasgow Drug and Alcohol Recovery Hub.

Operated by the Mungo Foundation, the service exists to support people to move away from alcohol and drug dependence and has helped more than 1,200 people since it opened three years ago.

Sturgeon said that the work that third sector organisations carry out on a human level with those in recovery is an important part of changing the way that addiction is treated.

“It is extremely important that those fighting addiction feel valued. People with drug or alcohol addiction are dealing with health problems.

“Scotland, in common with many other countries, for too long has tended to tackle these problems from a criminal justice perspective. We need to be much firmer that these are public health challenges.

“When you take that view it becomes much more important to see the human element and impact. Every one of these statistics is a person, with a family. People need to feel valued, feel important and be helped to regain that sense of personal esteem and self-worth as part of the recovery process, and organisations like this one help to do an exceptional job in that sense.”

The first minister pledged to build on existing support services, and said that the government is keen to expand projects that are working. However she also recognised the complexity of the reasons behind the crisis, and said work to create drug consumption rooms in Scotland and examine how other countries have reduced deaths will continue.

“The factors behind the unacceptable levels of death are complex,” she said. “There’s no single or simple solution but the complexity is something we have got to embrace and understand. Crucially we have to look at what works, and support these initiatives so we can help more people to access them.”

13th August 2019 by Eric Sinclair

Question for FM: Scotland and England have the same drugs laws, so why is the problem so much worse here?