Church condemns Scotland’s drug deaths

Bishop John Keenan has said tackling Scotland’s shocking rate of deadly drug overdoses can’t be left to politicians, “The statistics released showing Scotland still has the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in Europe was another disappointment to us in the sad story of substance abuse and death in our country,” Bishop Keenan of Paisley said.

“They show that this problem cannot be solved by our politicians alone but now calls for the concern of the whole community, of every one of us.”

The bishop pointed to the ‘mission of the Jericho Society who work with those vulnerable to addiction, and who have accompanied many down the years to find their way back to lives to the full’ as an example of ‘a good news story of what is possible when we stop to care’.

“I would encourage every Catholic to engage with this issue; to pray, to understand, to have compassion, to volunteer and to become a part of the solution,” he said.

The latest figures show that 1,330 people died of drug misuse in Scotland last year, the second highest figure on record.

The day the figures were announced saw protests outside the Scottish Parliament organised by the group Faces and Voices of Recovery, which is supporting the Right to Recovery Bill which would guarantee the right to rehabilitation in Scots Law.

Annemarie Ward, founder of the charity and co-writer of the bill, said the lack of a right to rehab means lower-income people are left without a way to overcome their addiction.

“In Europe overall, the average treatment episodes of all people coming forward for addiction, 11% because there is no legal right. It doesn’t necessarily have to be rehab; rehab is only one form of drug and alcohol treatment.

“The point is that there is no right to any of that. You don’t get a choice and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

One of the protestors present was Liz Daly, whose brother Tony Devine died of a drug overdose in June 2021.

Devine had a history of strug- gling with addiction, but was making progress to recovery until he was socially isolated during the Covid lockdowns.

Daly expressed concern that the most recent drug-related deaths statistics, which are still the second-highest on record, are being reported as an improvement due to there being nine deaths fewer than the previous year.

“It’s not a victory at all,” she said.

“1330 people dying a year is over 100 families a month suffering what our families have gone through. That’s not good enough.

“We have to start putting money into proper recovery programmes where the addict can get all the emotional and psychological help as well as medical help.

“But they need that psychological and emotional support so they can go on without that crutch.”

Daly emphasised the importance of employing people in the treatment sector who have lived-experiences of addiction, a move which has found success in England as more than 50% of those in the field have lived-experiences.

[Photo credit: Mark Messer]

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