Yes. Since the publication of “The Road to Recovery” in 2008, supported by Scottish Government investment of £254 million in frontline services, there have been substantial improvements across a range of areas. Drug taking in the general adult population is falling, drug taking among young people is the lowest in a decade and there have been significant reductions in the length of time that individuals wait to receive treatment for their drug problem, with 93 per cent now being seen within three weeks of referral. However, we are not complacent, especially with the reported level of drug-related deaths having risen substantially and given the complex health needs of a vulnerable, older cohort of persons who have an addiction.
We have also witnessed a huge rise in the number of recovery support groups in communities across Scotland. There are now more than 100 such groups meeting regularly, led by people in recovery, making recovery from addiction visible across the country. That is hugely important in demonstrating to those with an addiction that many can and do successfully complete the recovery journey.
I thank the minister for his response, and I welcome his statement that there is no complacency—nor should there be. According to the Information Services Division, there are currently 61,000 problem drug users in Scotland, which is up from 2009-10. The number of people being prescribed methadone has increased over the piece, drug possession levels remain unchanged, and the number of people being admitted to hospital for drug issues continues to rise.
Given the economic and social cost of the problem of drug use, which, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures, amounts to £3.2 billion a year, is it not time to listen to new voices and new ideas and to push for radical change in Scotland’s drug policy?
I acknowledge and recognise Duncan McNeil’s strong interest in the subject over many years. He is right: it is a substantial problem that we face as a society, and it is one that we take very seriously. As Mr McNeil may be aware, we have recently formed a partnership for action on drugs in Scotland, which is charged with trying to find radical solutions to tackle what is a pernicious problem in our society. I certainly agree with him that we have to be prepared to explore potential new and brave solutions to tackle the problem. I can convey to Mr McNeil that I am willing to do so.