Carole Kelly:Advice needed to tackle ‘legal highs’

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The teenager Regane MacColl’s sad drug-related death in Glasgow a week ago provided a pertinent image for MSP’s during last week’s Scottish Parliament’s debate on new drugs, or so-called “legal highs”

Consistently, deaths or hospital admissions resulting from drugs with catchy names like “Mortal Combat” often feature simultaneous consumption with other substances – very often alcohol. In addition, fear of the police response and naivety can also result in situations where those who do become unwell do not seek medical help early enough.

The zero tolerance approach to tackling drug use has proved ineffective. Indeed, we would argue this can add to the problem if society refuses to acknowledge people do use drugs or even drink alcohol to excess. At Crew we understand the need to help provide welfare support to people who are determined to use drugs and alcohol. A sensible response consists of: providing harm reduction advice; roaming the premises to check people are well; offering a “chill out” space to rest and cool down; reassuring people they are safe if they become anxious; and providing a facility to have a lie down when things get too much.

This is the welfare service Crew provide at Colours superclub events and other large scale events in Scotland. In light of the robust security and welfare arrangements already in place for the “I am Hardwell” event in Ingliston, it was disappointing authorities chose to cancel it.

Circumstances surrounding this event were not similar to the problems on the Belfast leg of this DJ’s tour.

Knee-jerk reactions from statutory services are not helpful in dealing with situations like this. Rather, they result in animosity amongst those who planned to attend and do little to assure the public that they know how to manage large-scale events effectively.

• Carole Kelly is Chief Executive of Edinburgh-based drugs information and advice service Crew