Drug death figures show it is time for harm reduction

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Dr Iain McPhee argues the Scottish Government's drugs strategy isn't working and needs to move away from the UK model.  Tuesday’snational drug related death statistics in Scotland showed a 23 per cent rise from 2015, and while shocking, the spike is in no way surprising. 

There is an abundance of evidence which shows the ‘abstinence’ strategy taken by both the Scottish and UK governments will not have the desired impact in reducing drug related deaths. 

This ideological approach to drug treatment – which forces users to go completely clean – creates far too high a threshold for many of the country’s problem drug users or ‘heaviest drug users’ to adhere to, and , as a result, they drop out of the programmes and therefore fail to benefit from the recovery support that comes with them.

Period17 Aug 2017

Media coverage


Media coverage

  • TitleExperts call for Scottish Government to follow Europe’s footsteps and revolutionise our drugs policy including supervised user rooms The rooms are available in Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands — all of which have drug death rates under 20 per million
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletSun Newspaper
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size2 A$ pages
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionOur substance abuse mortality rates were yesterday branded a “national tragedy”. But other European countries have managed to reduce their death tolls by introducing clever initiatives.

    Last year, 867 people died from drug use in Scotland, equating to 160 per million residents, but in Portugal only 39 people died, the equivalent of six per million people.

    Dr Iain McPhee, senior lecturer in alcohol and drug studies at West of Scotland University, has called for an alternative vision for the country’s future drug recovery programmes.
    Producer/Authoriain McPhee
    PersonsIain McPhee