Scotland’s Drug Epidemic

  • Prevent drug deaths with informed, scientific, empathetic, and expert-led strategies for harm reduction. Drug abuse is a health issue.
  • Drug deaths are primarily a class issue, and needs a class-based solution.
  • Stop cycles of recidivism and anti-social behaviour by investing in people, communities, and jobs.

Drug addiction and criminal exploitation are class issues. Those living in poverty are more likely to fall into drug abuse and early death, and are more likely to be the victims of crime stemming from bad policy responses to drug abuse. Decades of stripping communities of wealth, democracy, and dignity has created cycles that we need to break.

Nobody should be left trapped in cycles of vulnerability, exploitation, insecurity, addiction, and violence. We can take action to reduce harm, address the root factors that cause crime, and deliver a more just Scotland. This is about the choices we make as a society and the kind of country we want to live in.

Two decades ago, the Scottish Socialist Party took to the Scottish Parliament some of the most radical, forward-thinking proposals for preventing drug deaths. Unfortunately, the country is still waiting for the Scottish Government to get the message – so we’re going to keep fighting for radical action to tackle Scotland’s drug epidemic.

A Class Issue

Although no-one is immune to drug abuse, the evidence shows that the better your socioeconomic status, the more options are available to stay safe.

With increasingly difficult, precarious lives, or coping with abuse or other deep traumatic circumstances without adequate support, many people find themselves involving with, using, or becoming dependent on drugs.

Austerity – whether imposed by Westminster or passed on by Holyrood – kicks away the fabric of social support, and stigma around drug use means users often face the consequences of addiction alone. This leads to cycles of alienation and neglect. Government has abandoned communities to poverty, and then use that poverty to justify abandoning communities.

Scotland records the highest amount of drug deaths in Europe, and those deaths are strongly centred around the most impoverished working-class communities in the country. A rise in drug abuse in the 1990s is still creating elevated rates of avoidable deaths in the 2020s: if we do not act now, this will continue for decades.

Stop the Deaths: Scotland’s Drug Epidemic

Scotland has a crisis of early deaths caused by drug abuse, and it is getting worse. Drug deaths hit a new record high, yet again, in 2019.

We need radical thinking and bold action to save lives. Drug deaths are part of a public health epidemic and the solution lies predominantly in harm reduction strategies alongside the provision of physical, mental, and social healthcare. While drug classification is reserved, the Scottish Government must use devolved powers over health, policing, justice, and public services to save lives.

Source: National Records of Scotland

The SSP’s flagship harm reduction policy since 1999 has been to allow doctors to prescribe clean heroin to people living with addiction. We know this sounds like a controversial idea, but trials elsewhere in the world have demonstrated that removing the need to commit a crime to fund drug use leads to a fall in crime, and to safer communities.

Criminal dealers increase profit by mixing heroin with impurities and poisons. This kills. An increasing number of drug deaths are caused by so-called “street Valium” – fake and dangerous benzodiazepine medicines.

The risk of overdose is significantly reduced by taking a prescribed, cleaner product in a safe environment. We support safe use sites, and call on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to not persecute individuals for saving lives.

An outbreak of HIV occurred in Glasgow in 2020, due to dangerous drug use conditions. Safe use sites provide access to clean needles, expert medical care, and facilities to test for lethal contaminants.

The Scottish Government must make emergency funding available for rehabilitation centres and effective, consistent follow-up care.

Filling up prison cells with people living with addiction does nothing to address use, addiction, relapse, alienation, crime, and self-harm. Many are first exposed to drugs and drug abuse while in prison. The Scottish Socialist Party advocate using the experience and evidence-led policy of doctors, drug charities, addiction support workers, people in recovery – not wasting millions on failed prohibition strategies.

Invest in People and Communities

The vast majority of all crime is the product of social and economic circumstances. Crime, anti-social behaviour, drug abuse, and exploitation are class issues – they harm working-class communities that have been abandoned by the government.

As a society, we can change those circumstances, but the political will to act is vital. The Tories don’t care, Labour didn’t act when they had the chance, and the SNP have been breaking promises since 2007 while problems get worse. Austerity, written in Westminster and passed on by Holyrood, ruins lives and breaks communities.

Life in Tory Britain strips the most vulnerable of their dignity, of ownership of their own society, of control of their own lives, and of a community of support. Precarious, hand-to-mouth living is a major factor in people turning to crime, and in people becoming the victims of crime.

That’s why we’re making a safe, secure, and suitable home a human right for all in Scotland, why we’re ending exploitative economic practices that leave people in poverty, and making expanded, universal, publicly-owned health and care services the core of a better kind of country. By restoring a solid economic and social basis for everyone in Scotland, we can break cycles of crime and abuse.

Our plan is to take communities out of poverty, and rebuild a healthy society based on common ownership, delivering on human needs before private profit, and putting the common good first: investing substantial public money to rebuild the necessary programs, communities, and fulfilling, dignified lives which people need and deserve.

We Need You to Support Real Change:

We don’t have or want billionaire backers and big corporate donors: we only seek our support from Scottish Socialist Party members and the generosity of working-class communities. We need you to support real change.

Scottish Socialist Party members are card-carrying ambassadors for the working-class movement, and the most important resource we could ever have. Comradeship is the heart of the socialist movement.

Come rally; support real change today.