Stirling Professor appointed as Chair of new Drug Deaths Taskforce

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Drugs and associated paraphenalia

The University of Stirling’s Professor Catriona Matheson has been announced as the new chair of a special taskforce set up to tackle the rising number of drug deaths in Scotland.

Professor Matheson, an expert in substance use based in the Faculty of Social Sciences, is also a trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and convener of the Drugs Research Network Scotland.

The Drug Deaths Taskforce will examine the main causes of drug deaths, promote action to improve the health outcomes for people who use drugs, and advise on further changes in practice, or in the law, which could help save lives. It will aim to collate and publish good practice about what has worked in other parts of the UK and internationally, and work with partners to spread and sustain good practice in Scotland.

Professor Catriona Matheson said: “I am honoured to accept this responsibility to deliver real change through a strengthened public health approach.

“I am keen to examine the evidence, and work across the landscape, involving those with lived experience of drug use and their families.

“We need to be bold in our thinking and our actions to reverse the trend, recognising that behind the statistics is personal tragedy “

Catriona Matheson

Professor Catriona Matheson will lead the taskforce

The group will also examine whether the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 affects the provision of a strengthened and consistent public health approach to drug use, recognising that this is reserved to the UK Parliament and that any changes will require their agreement, or for responsibility to be devolved to Scotland.

The review will specifically consider what impact the Act has on proposals to provide public health harm reduction services, such as medically supervised drug consumption rooms.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I am very pleased that Professor Catriona Matheson has agreed to head up this taskforce. She has a great deal of experience in this area, both through her role as Trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and as Convenor of the Drugs Research Network Scotland.

“What Scotland faces in terms of drugs deaths is an emergency. Every one of those deaths is a tragedy and tackling this issue is a public health priority.

“I want to ensure that the work of the taskforce is driven by a strong evidence base and it is my desire to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard.

“I will give consideration to any proposals that may help to tackle this issue.”

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