By the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce

This, the final report of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, sets out a suite of evidence-based recommendations and actions that will reduce drug-related deaths and harms and improve and save the lives of people who use drugs. Our final report has four substantive chapters.

1. Context: explores where we are now, gives an overview of the work of the Taskforce to date and discusses the legal context in which Scotland operates.

2. Culture: sets out what the ethos of the system should be and the changes that are needed to achieve this. It calls for broad culture change from stigma, discrimination, politicisation and punishment towards care, compassion and human rights.

3. Care: investigates what is needed to deliver an effective, consistent, personcentred, whole-systems approach that delivers high-quality care. It builds on the principle that drug dependency should receive parity with any other health conditions, with people getting the care they need when they need it.

4. Co-ordination: sets out the foundations of the changes that are required, including targeted resource and decisive leadership. Twenty overarching recommendations are provided at the beginning of the report. Each chapter then includes evidence-based actions that are summarised in a table at the end of the report.

The table also identifies which bodies should address the actions and sets out a timescale for implementation.

When considering the recommendations and actions of the Taskforce the short, medium and long term timescales are defined as:

  • Short Term: Less than a year
  • Medium Term: 1 to 3 years
  • Long Term: 3 to 5 years

We in the Taskforce are clear that drug-related deaths in Scotland are a public health emergency and action is needed now to turn the tide. The timescales outlined are not intended to be used to justify delays, but to provide estimates of when full implementation can be expected. Implementation of all actions should be prioritised without delay.

Where possible, we have sought to add corroborating data or to contextualise the evidence, and to highlight potential gaps where more work needs to be done. The report is supported by an evidence paper outlining the evidence we considered when developing the recommendations and actions.

The recommendations and actions are shaped by our work over the past three years, which had three high-level areas of focus:

  1. Emergency response: maximising the capacity and capability of emergency services, families and friends and agencies to deal with a potentially fatal overdose by being properly equipped and trained;
  2. Reducing risk: maximising the support, access and range of practical and appropriate choices of pathways for anyone with high-risk drug use; and
  3. Reducing vulnerability: relevant key agencies addressing issues that can predispose vulnerable people to move into higher-risk use of drugs and reducing the associated impact on wider communities.