Drug Deaths Taskforce response: cross government approach

Cross government response to the Drug Deaths Taskforce report, Changing Lives. It contains a cross government action plan, response to Taskforce recommendations and a stigma action plan.

25. Where are we now?

The recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey[69] gives a picture of current attitudes towards substance use across Scotland.

A clear majority of people agree that it is in all our interests to help people with problem substance use. This is both a signal of the severity of the current situation, but also provides a hopeful perspective of the potential for our work on tackling stigma. However, with only 30% agreeing they would be comfortable living near someone receiving support for problem drug use, there is clearly work to be done on changing public perception of people affected by problem substance use.

The survey results show a general trend of more positive attitudes towards people with problem substance use since the previous survey in 2009, and this reflects the excellent work that has already been done to tackle stigma but clearly demonstrates the need for much more work to be done.

The Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 ("the Disability Regulations") exclude individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies from the protection of the Equality Act 2010, meaning that dependency alone does not qualify as a disability. This means that organisations can lawfully discriminate against individuals on the basis of their dependency. Because there is no legal requirement to do so, most organisations do not have policies to explicitly support people with substance dependency in the same way as they support and make adjustments for those with other substantial and long-term health conditions.

It is clear that this exclusion perpetuates the stigma and prejudice that is expressed towards people with substance dependency despite international recognition that it is a health condition. The World Health Organisation defines drug dependency as a health disorder that often follows the course of a relapsing and remitting chronic disease.[70]

The Equality Act 2010 ("the Act") is mainly reserved. We cannot make amendments in relation to matters concerning disability, but we will continue to make the case to remove the current exclusion from the definition of disability for drug and alcohol dependency and we will take action to embed structural changes and tackle social stigma now.

Legal protections are important in tackling stigma and changes, such as amendment of the Disability Regulations, would send a clear message that substance dependency is a health condition that creates additional challenges and presents barriers that people require support to overcome. However, it is clear from the experiences of those with characteristics that are protected under the Act, that legislation does not end stigma. Work to change attitudes, assumptions and prejudice needs to be done alongside making structural changes.


Email: Drugsmissiondeliveryteam@gov.scot

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