Analysis: Why prevention is still better than cure
THE latest report from Europe’s drugs monitoring agency paints what is now a depressingly familiar picture of Scotland sitting at the top of the table of illegal drug use.
Use of Ecstasy, amphetamines, and cocaine in the past 12 months is higher in Scotland among those aged 15 to 34 than in any other country in Europe. We should be in no doubt these figures reveal a drug culture in Scotland that is extensive, deep-seated and out of control.
One reason for this is the shockingly inadequate investment that successive governments have made in drugs prevention. Within Scotland the prevention of drug abuse attracts only a fraction of the funding of the two big spending areas of drug abuse treatment and drug enforcement. For years our approach to tackling illegal drugs has been about ensuring addicts are being helped to recover and dealers are facing the full power of the law. What we are forgetting in that financial allocation is the simple dictum that prevention is better than cure.
If anybody thinks that the drugs problem in Scotland is simply going to lose momentum and fade away they need to think again. New drugs are being developed and marketed on almost a weekly basis and they are finding a ready market among young Scots. Legal high drugs are being openly sold at music festivals and clubs throughout the country. These are domains where the health educator, the drug treatment specialist and the law enforcement officer have only marginal impact –too often arriving on the scene when a death has occurred. The Scottish Government has shown great courage in tackling our country’s tobacco and alcohol problems. Tackling the culture of acceptance and availability around illegal drugs will require no less commitment, no less courage and no less action.
• Dr Neil McKeganey is director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research – an independent research centre based in Glasgow and the author of Controversies in Drugs Policy and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan)
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