THE Royal Mail and Parcelforce are being turned into unwitting drugs couriers, according to a landmark new report on substance abuse from an influential think tank.
The report – “No Quick Fix” – by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has also identified Scotland as having one of the most acute drugs problems in the UK, highlighting a North-South divide.
The report says that the rate of “problematic drug use” in Scotland is 1.6 adults to every 100, double that of England and Wales.
And in a damning indictment of the way addiction is dealt with by handing out methadone, it notes that almost half of drug-related deaths in Scotland involves the heroin substitute.
In describing Britain as “the addicted man of Europe, the CSJ says the country has the highest level of opiate abuse in the continent.” It also has double the number of people in drug treatment than Germany, suggesting the UK’s “interventions are not adequately undermining the drug problem”, and spends the most in Europe on drug policies, nearly 5p in every £10.
In addition, it is also “leading the way” in the distribution of new psychoactive substances, known as legal highs’, turning organisations such as the Royal Mail and Parcelforce into unwitting drugs couriers. Over 130 websites, such as the Silk Road, are allowing illegal drugs to be bought on the internet and delivered to any home in Britain.
The CSJ was set up by Iain Duncan Smith after he visited Easterhouse in Glasgow and was appalled by the poverty in Scotland’s largest city and how welfare had failed to tackle the issue.
In its report, the CSJ claims that in Scotland drugs create a worse poverty trap than in the rest of the UK, but that reducing welfare payments could help tackle drug addiction.
It states: “The numbers trapped in poverty by addiction are sizeable. Of the 200,000 in drug treatment in 2011 in England, only 18 per cent of those were in employment. In Scotland, that figure is 12 per cent and this percentage will likely be lower for the estimated 52,000 drug addicts in Scotland.”
On the effect of cutting welfare it added: “More rigorous conditions on welfare benefits have meant that some are no longer able to maintain an expensive habit.
“One local authority commissioner of addiction treatment said some addicts receiving welfare benefits had been able to maintain a relatively comfortable living standard and would not engage in treatment. She told the CSJ that with the reforms to welfare, some were starting to realise they could no longer maintain such a lifestyle and continue their drug taking. As a consequence they were now willing to address their addiction. Considering that 70 per cent of those entering drug-treatment in Scotland funded their habit with welfare benefits, the potential effect may be to boost recovery and reduce the welfare bill.
“As Shirley Berry of the Glasgow-based Findlay Family Network told the CSJ, tougher conditions have meant that some addicts, who had previously refused to engage in treatment, have decided to address their personal expensive behaviour. She described how some people are addressing personal health issues like substance abuse because their benefits were no longer stretching as far as before.”
Christian Guy, director of the CSJ, said: “While our addiction problem damages the economy, it is the human consequences that present the real tragedy.
“Drug and alcohol abuse fuels poverty and deprivation, leading to family breakdown and child neglect, homelessness, crime, debt, and long-term worklessness. From its impact on children to its consequences for pensioners, dependency destroys lives, wrecks families and blights communities.”
The use of methadone to wean addicts off heroin was the central criticism of drugs policy made by former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie when she recently launched a campaign for a new way of tackling the problem but the report suggests that little has improved. The report noted: “In Scotland, which currently has a record rate of drug-related deaths, methadone is associated in 47 per cent of all drug-related deaths – more than any other drug (after alcohol), including heroin.”
Other Conservative party figures said that the failure to properly review drugs policy was continuing to make the situation much worse north of the Border.
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “It is a damning indictment of the SNP’s six years in power that they are no closer to getting to grips with Scotland’s drug epidemic. A substance originally given out to wean people off drug addiction has now become a major contributor in so many unnecessary deaths.
“We need to move away from spending £30 million a year on handing out methadone to creating more widespread treatment services to help users kick the habit once and for all.”