Scottish Drugs Forum statement on Scotland’s public health emergency

Scottish Drugs Forum


Scottish Drugs Forum statement on Scotland’s public health emergency

29 August 2023

Scotland has made an inadequate response to the on-going public health emergency and now faces the emerging threat of a drug supply containing new synthetic opioids. This situation demands the urgent implementation of the full range of evidence-based practice and policy now.

All individuals and organisations must work to deliver the National Mission to Reduce Drug Deaths.

It is evident that Scotland needs to adopt the practice and policy measures developed in other countries to address the very issues we now face. Therefore we must, without further delay, implement an emergency plan to:

  1. Support positive health-focused engagement with people who use drugs through a process of decriminalisation of the possession of drugs for personal use through the use of alternatives to prosecution for ALL people, for ALL drugs in ALL circumstances.
  2. Monitor changes in drug supply – including dangerous synthetic opioids – and ensure people involved in drug use know the risks associated with the substances being supplied through street supply. This can partly be achieved by providing drug checking services where people can submit small samples of drugs for analysis and then receive a list of the substances these street drugs contain.
  3. Ensure that people experiencing drug problems and using drugs in street-based environments and other people particularly vulnerable to harm, including fatal and near-fatal overdose, can have immediate support in case of an overdose and access to information and support services through the provision of safer drug use facilities wherever in Scotland there are people who would be protected and supported by using them.
  4. Ensure people most vulnerable to fatal overdose involving opiates (the vast majority of fatal overdoses in Scotland) are able to access effective means to prevent death in the event of overdose through maximising Scotland’s national naloxone programme which includes ensuring people are supplied with naloxone at every opportunity, with a strong emphasis on peer-led distribution.
  5. Attract a far higher proportion of people who could benefit from treatment into treatment by delivering accessible and acceptable treatment services grounded in connection and compassion for all people experiencing drug problems.