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Police Scotland officers carrying Naloxone prevent 53 drug deaths

Officers regularly carrying the anti-overdose medication Naloxone has led to 53 lives being saved, a minister has told MSPs.

The drug, which counters the effects of overdose from opioids such as heroin, has been carried by officers as part of national trial project starting in 2021.

During 2020, 1,339 Scots lost their lives as a direct result of drugs.

Drugs policy minister Angela Constance spoke to a joint meeting of Holyrood committees on Wednesday.

She said: “Naloxone is now more widely available through distribution to the police and Scottish Ambulance Service, as well as expanded family and peer to peer distribution.

“Since the start of the Police Scotland test of change, 53 lives have been saved by police officers.”

Ms Constance also said “delicate” work on a proposal for a safer drug consumption facility in Glasgow is continuing.

On Tuesday, UK Government policing minister Kit Malthouse spoke to the same group of MSPs and he set out his concerns about the proposals.

Ms Constance said she and Mr Malthouse have different views on how to reduce the harms caused by drugs.

The UK Government has refused to grant exemptions to drugs legislation around the safe consumption facilities.

David Strang, chairman of the Scottish Government’s drug deaths taskforce, also spoke to the MSPs for the first time since he started in the role last month.

Mr Strang is a former senior police officer and prison inspector.

He told MSPs consumption rooms would be a matter for local authorities once a national framework is decided.

He emphasised the need to treat drug deaths as a public health crisis and said the “crime and punishment” approach to drugs taken for decades has failed.

Mr Strang said: “We’ve been trying that for 40, 50 years and clearly it hasn’t worked.”

Evidence around the benefits of consumption rooms is “overwhelming”, he said.

Mr Strang said: “I heard Mr Malthouse’s evidence yesterday and I think the evidence on heavier policing as being a route to tackling our public health crisis isn’t the right way forward.

“We’ve tried that for 50 years and this is where we are.”

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