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Drugs Commission to meet in Dundee for first time as ministers back radical action

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell.
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell.

A summit to tackle Dundee’s heroin crisis will feed into a “controversial” Scottish Government masterplan to reduce drugs deaths, says the public health minister.

The Drugs Commission meets for the first time on Monday in response to the spiralling number of fatalities in the city.

Dundee has the worst drugs record in Scotland, with 12 suspected narcotics death in January this year alone.

The commission brings together the police, academics, health workers, politicians and those who have been affected by drug abuse.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell, who is to speak at the meeting, said the government wants to “change the provision of treatment and support for those who are most at risk”.

“That means taking forward evidence-led measures, even if they were to prove controversial,” she said.

“This commission will play a crucial role in gathering the experiences and views of people in Dundee who are affected by drug misuse, and I look forward to seeing the commission’s recommendations.”

The Scottish Government announced in November that their review of drugs strategy would be completed in the spring, but that has been pushed back to the summer.

Dundee City Council has been looking at opening drugs consumption rooms, which allow users to inject under supervision.

Glasgow health and council chiefs have backed the move there and are also exploring a heroin-assisted treatment clinic, where doctors can prescribe the drug.

The power to decriminalise or legalise lies with the UK Government, with classification reserved to Westminster. Policies for how to approach addiction and drug use are devolved.

Ken Lynn, a councillor who is chairman of the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The situation in Dundee has got to a point where we need to take a new approach to provide solutions to save and improve people’s lives.”

Dr Drew Walker, chairman of the Dundee Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, said the drug problem is a “major public health concern” in the city.

“Work is being undertaken by the Dundee ADP to provide support and care to people who take drugs, their friends and families, but the commission will provide invaluable additional expertise to reduce problem drug use and consequent drug deaths in future,” he said.

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