DRNS Convenor to chair Scottish Drugs Death Taskforce

Professor Catriona Matheson, DRNS Convenor and Professor of Substance Use (University of Stirling) has been appointed to lead the Scottish Government’s Drugs Death Taskforce.  The Taskforce will:

  • examine the main causes of drug deaths, promote action to improve the health of people who use drugs and advise on further changes in practice, or in the law, which could help save lives;
  • collate good practice about what has worked elsewhere and examine the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act;
  • consider what impact the act has on proposals to provide public health harm reduction services, such as medically supervised drug consumption rooms.

Professor Matheson said: “I am honoured to accept this responsibility to deliver real change through a strengthened public health approach. I am keen to examine the evidence and work across the landscape, involving those with lived experience of drug use and their families. We need to be bold in our thinking and our actions to reverse the trend, recognising that behind the statistics is personal tragedy.”

What is very welcome is that now we have a new strategy based around public health that takes a public health and human rights approach and that is what we need.

Catriona Matheson

Statistics for Scotland’s drug related deaths in 2018 are due to be published by NHS Information Services Division on 16th July, it is anticipated that the annual total for 2018 will, for the first time, exceed 1,000 deaths.

Graph showing increase in drug related deaths in Scotland 1996 - 2017

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP said “I am very pleased that professor Catriona Matheson has agreed to head up this task force. She has a great deal of experience in this area, both through her role as trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and as convener of the Drugs Research Network Scotland. What Scotland faces in terms of drugs deaths is an emergency. Every one of those deaths is a tragedy and tackling this issue is a public health priority. I want to ensure that the work of the task force is driven by a strong evidence base and it is my desire to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard. I will give consideration to any proposals that may help to tackle this issue”.

Examples of media coverage include articles on the STV News and BBC News websites.  You can hear Catriona’s interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland here.

BBC Good Morning Scotland image
Credit and copyright: BBC Radio Scotland. Reproduced in line with UK Govt. copyright guidance on ‘Reporting current events’ https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright#criticism-review-and-reporting-current-events

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