Free heroin could help Scotland shake off unwanted drugs death title
There were 1264 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2019, Sturgeon says
The Dutch professor who initiated the scheme in the 90s for drug users to have access to taxpayer-funded heroin has said Scotland should do the same to combat the issue of drug-related deaths.
Researchers who work alongside the addiction expert Wim van den Brink conducted a study into Scotland’s addiction death rates, finding that drug addicts in Scotland are 20 times more likely to die by mixing heroin with 'street benzos' than drug users in England are.
Wim van den Brink likened Scotland's drug problem to the Opioid issue in the US.
As reported by the Daily Record, Professor Wim van den Brink, from the University of Amsterdam said: "Every expert in this field has talked about the opioid crisis in the US.
"But then you see a country closer that has a much higher rate and has been largely ignored – it’s shocking. We need to stop it.
"This is an epidemic," he added.
"But as a society we largely don’t care about these people. This isn’t only a public health issue – it’s basically a human rights issue. There are various drivers to the problem and things that can help fix it.
"One involves heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) programmes for problem addicts. There is overwhelming evidence in countries that have used it that not only does it work but it turns out to be cost effective," he said.
Heroin-assisted treatment enables drug addicts to inject heroin, but in a clinic with medical supervision. It is used in countries in Europe, such as Germany and Switzerland.
The programme was trialled in Scotland's capital back in 2019, however the scheme was only used by approximately 20 addicts, as reported the Daily Record.
Drugs Policy Minister, Angela Constance, said: "Work is under way to investigate how we can widen the trial in Glasgow and also make it available in other parts of Scotland."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon directly addressed the issue of drug-related deaths in Scotland earlier this year.
Sturgeon said: "In 2019, the number of people in Scotland who died a drug-related death was equivalent to three people losing their lives each and every day.
"Every single one – 1264 in total - was a human being with dreams and aspirations, talent and potential."
The FM continued: "We will maximise what can be done now within the current law to reduce harm and stop people dying.
"An example of this is heroin-assisted treatment.
"There is evidence again from other places that heroin-assisted treatment reduces deaths."