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Community / Substance use a health issue that needs compassion

A vigil was held in the Lerwick flower park last week.

USERS of legal and illegal drugs are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and they should be treated with compassion and not as criminals.

That is the message from drug workers and drug reform campaigners who last week held a vigil in the Lerwick flower park to remember those who have lost their lives to drug overdose in Shetland.

Drug deaths have been increasing in recent years, as is the case across Scotland, with four Shetlanders dying from overdose in 2020. A recent spate of drug deaths in 2021 shows that upward trend continuing.

Manager of the Shetland Recovery Hub Amanda Pearson said: “Where the law treats them as criminals, it’s our duty as caring citizens to counter that stigma with compassion. We’re working to support drug users and I’m looking forward to making more progress in Shetland to further reducing drug related harm.”

Drug reform campaigner Alex Armitage said: “Our drugs laws should be keeping people safe but instead they are fuelling drug related harm.

“Despite the heartbreaking reality of the number of overdose deaths in Shetland, it’s a comfort to see an increasing number of people who are resolute in their determination to reform the law and change our society’s attitude to drug use.”

Development officer for Shetland’s Alcohol and Drugs Partnership Wendy McConnachie added: “Each death is the loss of a loved one. People who use alcohol or other drugs are not ‘other people’ – they are us.

“Substance use disorders are a health issue and should be treated as such, without judgement.”

Help is available in Shetland by calling the Recovery Hub on 01595 744402 or the Substance Use Recovery Service on 01595 743006.