Drug users to be given immediate access to support in new Scottish healthcare standards


Original image: Dimi Katsavaris

People with drug abuse issues will be given access to treatment on the same day they ask for it, thanks to new treatment standards developed for Scotland.


Published by the Drug Deaths Taskforce, the 10 new standards are designed to ensure access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for drug users, no matter where they live in Scotland.


The standards aim to reduce the number of drug-related deaths occurring in Scotland, which are proving to be a major health concern for the nation.


In 2019, the number of drug-related deaths in the country climbed 6% compared with the previous year to 1264 – the highest number recorded for a sixth year in a row.


Drug-related deaths also disproportionately affect people from poorer backgrounds, with the latest data (2015/16) showing that 52% of drug-related deaths occurred in the 20% most-deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland.


MAT is an evidence-based approach to tackling the issue, combining medication with psychological and social support to help people deal with drug abuse issues.


One of the most common forms of medication given as part of MAT is methadone which acts as a substitute for heroin.


When given to inmates as part of MAT, methadone has been shown to increase engagement with community treatment, and reduce opioid abuse and injection drug use.


The new standards are based on the Scottish Government's Health & Social Care rights-based approach to dealing with drug abuse, which aims to put the patient at the heart of their own treatment and care.


“We now have a set of standards which are safe, accessible and person-centred. These will help ensure consistency of treatment across the country," said Minister for Drug Policy, Angela Constance.

"Making help available and giving people an informed choice is an essential part of respecting a person’s rights and dignity. It is also an approach which is more likely to be effective and provide people with the support and treatment they need."


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The Scottish Government is backing the standards with a £50 million investment to help embed them across all Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) by April 2022.


ADPs are collaborative relationships between health boards, local authorities, police, and voluntary agencies that aim to reduce alcohol and drug abuse across Scotland.


"The publication of the MAT Standards and the start of their implementation represents a major achievement for the Taskforce and the beginning of a new phase of our work," said Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, Professor Catriona Matheson. "The Standards constitute the most significant intervention in the strategy to reduce the unacceptable level of drug related deaths.


"The Standards will form a critical element of the longer term, sustainable actions that will save lives, complimenting the emergency actions taken to date.


"The evidence is clear that using street drugs and not being in treatment is dangerous and life-threatening. The Taskforce wants more people at risk to be in treatment programmes."


To read the full set of MAT standards, click here.


Written by Marco Ricci Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health