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Homepage / News / Drug addicts are dying because we have turned our backs on them
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News, Outside MAN

Drug addicts are dying because we have turned our backs on them

On Tuesday night, episode one of my new documentary series aired on BBC Scotland. In it, I explored the drug crisis plaguing Dundee.

Of all the problems we face as a nation – and there are many – there is no issue more pressing, or least understood, than the looming spectre of the drug-crisis. Not simply because of the human cost, but also because our failure to tackle it says something shameful about the sorry state of our society.

In 2018, 1187 people perished in drug-related deaths in Scotland. In Dundee, 79 children lost a parent to the epidemic.

It’s difficult to speak or write about this topic without becoming angry. Many of the prominent voices on the issue, whether
politicians, commentators or those working within the recovery sector, have little direct experience of addiction. In my view, this is one of the biggest barriers to meaningful reform.

You wouldn’t put a toddler in charge of the space programme, because he feels really strongly about rockets, would you? So why is the issue of drug addiction dominated by people whose understanding of it is only theoretical?

This is not to say that “lived experience” is some kind of magic bullet. Social problems, and the policies devised to tackle them, are wickedly complex. But at what point do we collectively admit that this problem is not getting better, by any metric, and that we require a root-and-branch rethink?


That issue aside, the biggest barrier to reform is the stubborn public ignorance around the nature of addiction itself – ignorance which creates the safe space for political apathy to set in.

Without unified, organised and consistent public pressure on the political class, to revolutionise how we perceive, identify and treat addicts, as a society, leaders at local and national level will do the bare minimum. There are too many competing demands placed on politicians. Real change can only occur when those in charge are left in no doubt that failure to act will cost them, politically.

I think of the recent sea-change in public perceptions about gender inequality. Feminist activists and women’s groups have had to contend with a similar mix of public ignorance and political apathy for decades, while women were being harassed, stalked, coerced, controlled, beaten, raped and murdered by male abusers.

Those abusers enjoyed a relative safe haven, fortified by public ignorance, where the roots of their behaviour were concerned. Today, thanks to the work of groups like Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and others, we’ve more understanding of the cultural factors that
give rise to abuse, like male entitlement, and these insights have been enshrined in law.

In terms of the drug crisis, we are decades away from mirroring this progress. We haven’t even accepted, as a society, that addicts are human beings with serious health problems.


The magnitude of this issue begins and ends with the de-personalisation of addicts themselves, who are presented either as contextless statistics, or as unthinking, unfeeling zombies.

History will not look kindly on those of us who could not (or would not) grasp the fact that anyone can become an addict . And that addiction is not a moral failing, but a mental and physical condition which requires care, compassion and love to correct.

I no longer care who disagrees with that. Just as I no longer care who thinks the world is flat, or that 9/11 was an inside job. Grow up.

The debate is over. Addicts in Scotland are dying because we, as an apparently inclusive, diverse, compassionate country, have all but turned our backs on them.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is central figure in comedy sketch politics at Westminster

Democracy is a joke thanks to Tory bams

Yesterday, my news feed was filled with pictures of people lounging about in their seats at work, videos of people picking their nose and eating it and footage of people telling bare-faced lies to get themselves out of trouble.

You might think I was watching a live stream from a prison yard, a youth club or the local zoo. In fact, this was the behaviour of Tory politicians in the debating chamber of our country’s parliament.

I thought these plummy, privately educated, gold-plated wrecking-balls were meant to be superior to the local bams? Are they not supposed to be cut from finer cloth?

As the shambles of Brexit gathers momentum, we now live in a country where – as pointed out by CommonSpace yesterday – the PM has called an election, despite not wanting one. The opposition has denied him the election, despite wanting one. And the currency actually gains value, whenever the Government appears to be on the verge of collapse. Anyone pretending to know what is going on, or where we are headed, is either drunk, insane or suffering from the most acute delusions of grandeur.

We are now living in a comedy sketch, where the punchline is, unfortunately, democracy itself.

The Ice Box Community Group has been bailed out thanks to kind-hearted strangers

Action warms hearts

A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly about a local community group called The Ice Box that got flooded and lost a lot of their equipment. I just wanted to let you know that, thanks to your concern and generosity, they are now back on their feet and have resumed their regular services, including their shop, rehearsal and performance facilities.

It’s so heartwarming to think that the kindness of strangers can make such a big difference in the community.

Sometimes, the world just seems so out of control that taking a few minutes out of your day to throw someone some change, or give them some time, feels pointless and futile.

In truth, it’s the culmination of all of those little kindnesses that make life bearable or, dare I say it, worth living.

Thanks again to all of you who helped or shared the appeal – you made a real difference.

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