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The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland's Drug Problem

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Executive Summary

Scotland has a long-standing and serious drug problem. An estimated 52,000 people are problem drug users; 40-60,000 children are affected by the drug problem of one or more parent; and there were 421 drug-related deaths in 2006. This has a significant impact on individuals, families and society - with an estimated economic and social cost of £2.6bn per annum.

The dedicated efforts of many front-line workers to tackle the problem have had some success, but very significant challenges remain. Recent work by experts suggest that a fresh approach is required to address fully the needs of people with problem drug use, to help them recover and rebuild their lives.

Based on consensus, and informed by the best available evidence, this strategy sets out a significant programme of reform to tackle Scotland's drug problem and make a contribution to the Government's overarching purpose, which is to increase sustainable economic growth.

Central to the strategy is a new approach to tackling problem drug use based firmly on the concept of recovery. Recovery is a process through which an individual is enabled to move-on from their problem drug use towards a drug-free life and become an active and contributing member of society. Moving to an approach that is based on recovery will mean a significant change in both the pattern of services that are commissioned and in the way that practitioners engage with individuals. The strategy sets in train a number of actions to turn recovery into a reality. Core to this is the reform of the way that drug services are planned, commissioned and delivered to place a stronger emphasis on outcomes and on recovery.

The Government does, however, believe that preventing drug use is more effective than treating established problems. We are taking a broad approach to reducing the future demand for drugs recognising explicitly the strong links between tackling problem drug use and the Government's wider policies such as mental health, early years and growing the economy. This broad approach is complemented by action to improve drugs education, in and outwith, the school environment. We will also continue to provide accurate and credible information on drugs to help reduce recreational drug use.

Reducing the supply of drugs is a vital part of the strategy in order to reduce the harms to individuals and society and protect communities. We are supporting the efforts of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency ( SCDEA) to understand better the complex relationship between supply, availability and price of illegal commodities. We are also looking at strengthening further the powers available under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 so that a lifetime of crime is open to a lifetime of recovery, and more assets gained through drug dealing can be recycled back to local communities; we are piloting the extension of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders to lower tariff offenders; and improving treatment within prisons.

Finally, the strategy sets out the Government's renewed approach to developing more effective responses to children at risk of parental substance misuse. It sets in motion a programme of action to ensure that the child is at the centre of agency responses and that the principle of early intervention is embedded.