A Resolution to End Drug Deaths

“This time of year is for reflection and resolution. I believe we need a national resolution to end drug deaths.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 30/12/2019 Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/resolution-needed-to-end-epidemic-of-drug-deaths/  [Accessed: 2019, Dec 31]

Christmas Eve is traditionally one of those times of the year when you can wrap the final few presents and kick back stress-free with a beverage in the warmth of your home but that was not the case for Annemarie Ward. Her Christmas Eve was spent driving frantically across Glasgow to the house of her little cousin, who had entered a drug-induced psychosis due to blue valium, which has been a notorious component to the increase in drug deaths across Scotland in the last year.

Annemarie WardAnnemarie Ward, 48, is both personally and professionally invested in recovery. Professionally, she is the CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery UK but, on a personal level, she celebrated 22 years of sobriety from drug addiction in August. FavorUK, as it is more commonly known, has been operating for over a decade and is an umbrella organisation for recovery communities. Annemarie, and those she works alongside, are as concerned as most about the consistent rise in the numbers lost to drugs in Scotland.

However, she is also one of a growing number of voices across the country increasingly concerned about some of the proposed solutions being presented in response to the current situation. Additionally, she is disappointed that the experienced voices of those on the journey of recovery were an afterthought in the membership of the Drug Deaths Task Force, convened by the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing and Dundee City West MSP, Joe Fitzpatrick.

Annemarie is also uneasy about the recent proposal to prescribe pharmaceutical grade heroin stating that the evidence-base for success is limited. She says: “We [at FavorUK] support medical responses, as one among many potential routes to recovery.” On safe injection rooms, she states: “It is clear they save lives but the plan to locate one in the city centre of Glasgow, where a fraction of the population live and take drugs, is ill-conceived.” She also has reasonable reservations concerning decriminalisation.

I ask what would be her primary request of the Scottish Government? She says: “A residential rehabilitation facility.” In Glasgow, Annemarie Ward states that 47% of the budget ascribed to support those towards recovery facilitated getting people into residential rehabilitation centres just over a decade ago. She adds, however, that the current budgetary figure is less than 1%, meaning only 14 people in Glasgow has been sent to rehab in the last year despite having had an incredibly positive success rate.

This time of year is traditionally also a point for reflection and resolution. I believe we need a national resolution to end drug deaths to stem the tide of what Annemarie calls “epidemic proportions of addiction in Scotland”. However, my concern is that the Scottish Government, in its search for solutions, lurches towards unsuitable options which increases the number of lives sacrificed on the altar of addiction.