Drugs Health

Drug Deaths Taskforce marks first year

Funding announced for research projects across Scotland.

Almost £4 million has been allocated by the Drug Deaths Taskforce to projects to support its work reducing harm and deaths.

The taskforce has announced the Scottish Government funding for research and front-line services to help tackle the drug deaths public health emergency over the next year:

£1 million for 10 research projects examining different approaches to tackling the public health emergency

£3 million for Scotland’s Alcohol and Drug Partnerships to deliver on the six evidence-based strategies set out by the Taskforce to reduce drug deaths and drug harms

The taskforce, which has now been operating for a year, also launched a new website to inform stakeholders, service providers, people who use drugs and their families on their work.

In addition, a new strategy to tackle stigma will encourage a more informed and compassionate approach towards people who use drugs and their families. Over its first year it has gathered evidence which shows stigma is one of the main factors preventing people from seeking treatment.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“I want to thank Professor Catriona Matheson and all the members of Scotland’s Drug Deaths Taskforce for their hard work in its first year.

“This is not a problem with a quick solution and I know they have spent many hours gathering evidence about the true extent of this emergency and developing and implementing strategies to tackle it. This funding will enable it to act using what it has learned from individuals’ lived experiences.

“I’ve travelled all over the country meeting as many people who use drugs and service providers as possible and I have been told repeatedly that stigma is a real barrier to people accessing treatment.

“Stigma can come from many sources, but most damaging is self-stigma where people believe they are not worthy of support. It is costing lives every day in Scotland and I believe this new strategy will help us tackle what is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges we face.”

Professor Catriona Matheson, Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, said:

“Since the taskforce first met in September 2019, we have been urgently reviewing evidence of what can best address Scotland’s unique challenge, and putting that evidence in action.

“The Annual Report details our progress in identifying critical lines of enquiry and actions to take us forward. The taskforce recognises that we all need to get away from a search for a mythical, single, magic bullet and towards a programme of implemented strategies that not only works but engenders a new level of trust, sharing and collaboration in Scotland’s key agencies. We believe in positive, sustainable change.”


The  full report and Stigma Strategy are available on the new  Drug Deaths Taskforce website.

Details of the 10 research projects sharing the £1 million funding can be found here.

Coronavirus Drugs Prisons

Supporting people affected by drug use

Over £2 million for new package of support during coronavirus (COVID-19).

New measures to assist those affected by drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced by the Scottish Government.

The measures include:

  • £1.9 million to support people in prison on prescribed Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) to switch to a new longer-acting form called buvidal
  • £150,000 for an enhanced offer of residential rehab to people leaving prison during the pandemic to support their recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services
  • widening the availability of overdose reversal drug Naloxone while measures to tackle coronavirus remain in place

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP said:

“While this public health crisis is ongoing, we must not lose sight of the fact there continues to be a significant number of highly vulnerable individuals who are at great risk of harm as a result of alcohol and drug use, who continue to need a wide range of help and support.

“Buvidal is an alternative to methadone or buprenorphine tablets which is administered by a seven or 28 day injectable dose, rather than daily administration. By making this available to people in prisons, we will support continuity of care, while reducing the need for daily contact and reducing pressure on our front line prison officers and NHS staff.

“Furthermore, a high proportion of those leaving or about to leave prison will require support for their recovery from problem alcohol or drug. Funding to pay for additional residential rehabilitation places will support their recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services.

“I welcome the Lord Advocate’s statement of prosecution policy in respect of the distribution of naloxone during the period of disruption caused by COVID-19. This will help to ensure that we can continue to support those affected by drug use and keep them safe.”

Joe FitzPatrick MSP on a visit to Addaction Dundee in 2019