Scotland’s drug death crisis is based disproportionally upon older drug users who began using heroin in the 1980s and 90s under the Tory and New Labour neoliberal economic policies which lauded greedy individualism, and which destroyed communities through a failure to create employment and a misguided war on drugs. Similar effects can be seen in the higher levels of drug deaths in the North of England and in Wales, also outside of the more affluent South-East which was protected from the worst of those policies. Researchers have shown this to be a predictable and widespread phenomenon:
Drug Overdose Rates Are Highest in Places With the Most Economic and Family Distress
From the BBC:
During the 1980s and ’90s there was a significant increase in problem drug users in Scotland, which peaked about 20 years ago. There is now an ageing population of drug addicts, mainly men, who have been using heroin for decades. Biologically they are ageing much faster than their real age and they develop multiple morbidity, particularly around respiratory diseases, liver diseases and blood-borne viruses and this adds a further vulnerability with regards to overdose deaths. Last year, more than two-thirds of drug-related deaths were aged between 35 and 54.
Deaths among younger users had been falling since the SNP came to power but rising again as Tory austerity cuts bite.
Hammer, nail, bang.
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But once again the damage has been done.
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And this from Simon Jenkins in today’s Guardian identifies Westminster as the problem when it comes to Scotland’s drug problem and attempts to sort it.
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Undoubtedly, people dying because of drugs misuse is a serious matter and the fact that the rate in Scotland is so high is something that requires attention.
Sadly, the data have been used by sections of the media and by the Scottish Conservatives to attack the Scottish Government. As with so many of these kinds of media reports there is a remarkable similarity in the wording, the exemplifying data shown and the tenor of headlines. It is as if there was a common script on which individual media gave a little tweak.
My first thought on seeing the data – that these deaths will be mainly of people in the older age groups, who have been misusing substances and alcohol for many years – and the information you have provided bears that out.
The ‘war on drugs’ instituted by President Nixon in the late 60s/early 70s has been an unmitigated disaster and has led to a ballooning of the fortunes to be made by drug trading, just as happened during Prohibition in the 1920s/30s. Nixon’s policy has been adopted for decades by most of the ‘western world’. It is also underpinned by a fundamentalist religious moralising, which ‘condemns’, and ‘blames’ drug users, and prevents the establishment of places where addicts can get drugs of appropriate purity and receive proper support in reducing their cravings and, eventually, becoming ‘clean’. There is no single path to redemption and different groups have used different approaches – for example ‘harm reduction’ and ‘cold turkey’ – because some work for some peopleand others for other people. But, the media and many politicians place these different groups in opposition to each other, both in philosophy and, more crucially by restricting the pot of money for which they are bidding – to get funds, the ‘cold turkey’ groups, for example, have to exaggerate or ‘condemn’ the approach of the ‘harm reduction’ group and vice versa to get a grant share that is even barely adequate.
On Channel 4 news, while it was headlined luridly in the programme’s anti-Scottish independence style, in the course of the programme, Mr Jon Snow adopted a much more nuanced and blame-free approach, quickly dealing with Ms Annie Wells’ scripted ‘SNP BAAAAD’ piece and pushing her to respond to the testimony from the Portuguese doctor who had introduced a decriminalising approach. But she just kept restating what she had learned and pointing up her Springburn background – I am from a poor background and I am not addicted thus implying the ‘personal responsibility’ line which conservatives across the world use. The real reason as the New Hampshire University report shows is rooted in the neo liberal economic hegemony.
Meanwhile, from news.gov.scot site – Unlike the Westminster/Whitehall elites’ continuing incoherent and cowardly refusal to explore any kind of movement on drugs policy – in a non-reserved area of policy (organ and tissue donation) the SNP Scottish Govt is pushing on with further major reforms. Significant good effects have already been achieved. See link and snippets below:
Legislation to introduce an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation for deceased donors will come into force in Autumn 2020.
The new law will add to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation over the last decade.
Less than 1% of people die in circumstances that enable organ donation to proceed, as a potential donor usually has to be in an intensive care unit and there may be medical reasons that mean organs are unsuitable for transplantation.
The high profile awareness-raising campaign will run for at least 12 months before the introduction of the new system, and on a regular basis after implementation.
Since 2008 in Scotland there has been:
•an 81% increase in the number of people who donated organs after their death (54 to 98 in 2018/19)
•a 58% increase in the number of lifesaving transplant operations from deceased donors (211 to 333 in 2018/19)
•a 16% decrease in the number of people on the active transplant waiting list (689 to 581 in 2018/19)
When Scotland has the tools Scotland will try to do the job. Indy or devolution? – You know it makes sense.