Poverty is probably the single biggest component contributing to much of Scotland’s drug problem, according to Scottish Drugs Forum’s new Annual Report.

SDF Chair Dr Jane Jay says that this is because of how poverty can lead to, perpetuate and be a barrier to overcoming a drug problem.

The economic climate has put an even greater spotlight on the link between harmful drug use and poverty, says Dr Jay, a retired clinical specialist in substance misuse and former Chair of Scotland’s National Forum on Drug-Related Deaths.

Drug services are saying that that recent and proposed changes to the welfare system are already having a detrimental impact on some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of society in Scotland and will cause even more intense hardship, she states.

Earlier this month (November), SDF made a submission to the Scottish Parliament saying that the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Bill will increase the level of drug problems in Scotland and undermine Scotland’s national strategy to promote recovery from damaging drug use.

In the submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee – which is scrutinising the impact of the Bill on Scotland – SDF says it was “deeply concerned” about the Welfare Reform Bill, which could become law in early 2012. Among the severe criticisms of the Bill were that it could increase the potential for chaotic drug use, increased drug deaths and harm to families - including children.

SDF’s latest Annual Report highlights the work of SDF volunteers  with a history of problem drug and poverty in identifying areas of overwhelming pressure which arise from trying to cope with life on inadequate incomes.

Over the past year the volunteers, supported by SDF staff, have been part of two separate workstreams for the four year Big Lottery-funded anti-poverty project, Evidence Participation Change (EPIC), managed by anti-poverty charity The Poverty Alliance.

They prepared and presented evidence for the Addictions and Poverty Evidence Session at EPIC’s Scottish Assembly for Tackling Poverty on Poverty, which resulted in the Assembly’s call for:

  • More Scottish and UK Government investment in communities because tackling poverty is a key way of addressing addiction issues
  • Scottish Government action to tackle stigma because drug addiction is the result of the problem, not the problem itself
  • Processes to ensure more participation by people with experience of addiction in the planning of services.

SDF volunteers also contributed their views and those of their peers to The Poverty Alliance’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Devolution of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, part of the UK Government’s wider welfare reforms. 

SDF links with The Poverty Alliance and its assistance to the EPIC project has allowed the service user voice to make a significant contribution to the increasing groundswell for much-needed action on this issue, said Dr Jay.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert