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Holyrood think-tank calls for fresh approaches to address 21st Century drug and alcohol misuse

Holyrood think-tank calls for fresh approaches to address 21st Century drug and alcohol misuse

News Release (DRUG AND ALCOHOL MISUSE) issued by The Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2008

Scotland's Futures Forum today published a report that set out to establish how Scotland can halve the damage caused to its population through alcohol and drugs by 2025.

It is the culmination of a year-long investigation of evidence gathered from some of the world's leading experts in tackling drug and alcohol misuse.

Frank Pignatelli, Chair of the report's Project Board, said:

"When I agreed to chair this project, I knew there was no silver bullet, no hidden answer waiting to be discovered. Instead we have sought to understand the extent of the challenge we face away from other more narrowly focussed or short-term debates.

"The Forum has concluded that significantly reducing the damage caused by drug and alcohol misuse is possible with strong leadership, honest debate and sophisticated, flexible policy approaches based on what works. After all, some of the problem alcohol and drugs users of 2025 have yet to be born, so it's all to play for."

Tom Wood, Vice Chair of the report's Project Board and former Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, added:

"We seldom get the opportunity to stand back and take a cool look at the major issues we struggle with day to day. The Forum's project has given us that chance, to reflect on how we would set about achieving a major reduction in the damage caused by drugs and alcohol.

"It is clear that to bring about such a change, a bold, long term approach is required, with a change in emphasis to a more balanced evidence-based policy. I believe that Scotland's new drug strategy has laid the foundations for such a change. And I hope that the work of the Forum will signpost the next steps we need to take."

Roger Howard, chief executive of the UK Drug Policy Commission, said:

"This report is an extremely welcome and valuable contribution to the debate. The Forum's long-term focus and ambition has led to some brave conclusions which have been grounded by careful consideration of evidence but will nevertheless challenge conventional thinking.

"By recognising the many societal factors that contribute to the drug and alcohol problems in Scotland, it becomes clear that a narrow view of 'drug policy' is inadequate. The rewards for addressing the bigger picture are likely to be much greater."

The report concludes that:

* The current heavy bias of resources allocated to enforcement is questionable and a counterbalancing of resources towards prevention and treatment is necessary

* There should be a new approach to regulation in Scotland whereby the regulation of all psychoactive substances - including alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and other legal drugs - should be governed by a single framework that takes into account the harm they can cause

* The Scottish Government and Local Licensing Boards, supported by the drinks industry, should seek to end irresponsible alcohol promotions in all licensed premises

* To tackle Scotland's high levels of drug-related deaths and incidence of Hepatitis C, additional harm reduction methods used successfully elsewhere in the world should be considered on a pilot basis, such as drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment

* A greater proportion of resources should be allocated to research, monitoring and evaluation

* The narrowing of inequality in Scotland should be a major plank of alcohol and drug damage prevention policy

* Large scale investment in early years' education is vital to preventing new generations of drugs and alcohol misusers

* Programmes that support recovery within community settings must be supported and expanded

* Alcohol and drug misuse should be seen predominantly as a health, lifestyle and social issue, rather than a criminal justice issue

* Young people must be given more credible and truthful information about alcohol and drugs to enable them to make better choices

Notes to editors

1. Scotland's Futures Forum was created by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body in August 2005. The forum aims to identify key challenges facing the nation and stimulate debate between MSPs, academics, civic society, wealth creators and international organisations on the ways of meeting them.

2. The Project Board overseeing the report was set up in May 2007 and comprised leading figures from business, health, academia, media, charity and community sectors.

3. Project Board Chair Frank Pignatelli spent 26 years working in the public sector, latterly as Executive Director of Strathclyde's education service before moving to the private sector, first as Group Director of Human Resources with Associated Newspapers London and subsequently as Managing Director of a Scottish-based business offering executive support and development to directors and senior managers of companies in the UK and abroad. In 1999, he was appointed the first Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish University for Industry, known to the public as learndirect scotland, a post from which he retired in December 2006.

4. Tom Wood is the former chair of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drugs Action Teams, and chair of the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug action team. He was previously a career police officer and was latterly the Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police in Edinburgh. He is a frequent commentator on criminal justice, alcohol and drugs policy.

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