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Health / Overdose awareness day sparks call from councillor for drugs to be legalised and regulated

The Town Hall clock faces lit purple on Thursday for International Overdose Awareness Day. Photo: SIC

A SHETLAND councillor and doctor has reiterated his view that drugs should be “legalised, regulated and controlled”.

Speaking on International Overdose Awareness Day (Thursday), Alex Armitage said “we have created a society in which drug use has been criminalised and stigmatised” – leading to people not getting the help they need.

It comes after the supply of drugs into Shetland was discussed at the isles’ community safety and resilience board on Wednesday, with police chief Stuart Clemenson saying around £750,000 worth of drugs has been seized in the last 18 months.

International overdose awareness day is designed to allow people to remember all those who have died following a drug overdose.

Locally a candle lighting event was held at the Lerwick flower park, while the town hall’s clock faces were lit purple.

In Shetland three people were reported to have died from a drug overdose in 2022.

“For me, drug overdoses are particularly tragic because they affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society and moreover are almost always preventable,” Armitage said.

Shetland South councillor Alex Armitage.

“We have created a society in which drug use has been criminalised and stigmatised; people who use drugs problematically, driven by psychological trauma or pain, are driven away from the help that they desperately need.

“Drug use is a normal human activity; people who use drugs are normal people.

“The negative consequences of drug use are almost entirely driven by the government system of prohibition, which drives the current drug death epidemic, and creates an illegal market in drugs, controlled by organised criminals, who are responsible for so much harm in our society.”

The Shetland South councillor said the overdose awareness day is a chance to “remember the loved ones that we’ve lost”.

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“But tomorrow let’s commit to creating a society where prohibition is ended, where the supply of drugs is legalised, regulated and controlled, where drug use is safe and where people who are in difficulty get the help they need,” he added.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, who represents the Liberal Democrats, previously said she backed proposals from the Scottish Government to decriminalise drugs possession for personal use.

She said last year that the Lib Dems have “set out clear plans to get people into treatment instead of prison, for drug testing facilities and for a network of safe consumption spaces”.

Armitage also previously backed the idea of a heroin assisted treatment clinic in Shetland.

Heroin assisted treatment aims to help users of opioids who do not always have success with conventional care.

Research has showed that health outcomes for participants improved, illicit consumption was reduced as did crime related to raising money for buying drugs.

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