Tele column 5th July 2019

Earlier this week, there were two Select Committee evidence sessions both taking evidence on drugs policy. The first, the Scottish Affairs focused on the law enforcement angle but importantly how we can divert people into health services rather than how do we persecute people. The second committee was the Health Committee and it took evidence from senior police officers and people in recovery. The overall feeling, I got was that health professionals and criminal justice professionals have come a long way in understanding the drivers and life styles that fuel addiction. Unfortunately, a lot of MPs still don’t get it. There is still a propensity to marginalise and stigmatise users. To see them first and foremost as criminals. The easy option is to hide them away within the prison system. As a result, prison is often the default outcome and the first opportunity many people have to engage in recovery. But prisons are full of drugs and the criminal fraternity that are controlling the production and supply. We should be addressing the problem behind the addiction. What are the emotional needs that are causing the harm? How big a driver is poverty? How do we help people live fulfilling lives? How do we identify and support those who are most vulnerable? These are the questions that need addressed. Hopefully that conversation is being ramped up in political circles and we can all come to the discussion with an open mind, ready to engage and learn from lived experience.