WHAT did we learn from the two drug deaths summits in Glasgow this week?

We learned from listening to people in recovery that to successfully get off and stay off drugs takes a huge amount of effort and requires an enormous amount of support both emotional and practical.

But hearing the stories at the event – notably, but not exclusively, from two women, Ashley and Clare – shows that this support and financial investment is worthwhile.

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Both those women are alive and have a second chance because they were supported by services to stop taking the drugs that were destroying their lives and others around them.

They are now able to be mothers to their children and feel they are contributing to society.

That is what the rest of us have to see when we look at someone in the grip of a drug or alcohol addiction. See beyond the wrecked life and to the potential that is still there. See the children desperate for their mother or father back and the parents who so desperately want their child to recover.

For decades this problem has been dismissed by politicians and the public alike as the fault of those who are suffering.

They have been treated as an inconvenience, a drain on society, people to be punished rather than helped.

There are an estimated 60,000 problem drug users in Scotland. Among them are at least 1300 people who will be included in the next batch of drug death statistics. They are, however, also the same people who, with the right support, can be the next examples of those who survived.

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If the drug deaths summits are to have served a purpose they have to lead to action.

There are a great number of people working and volunteering in communities and without their efforts the drug death toll would almost certainly be higher.

But it is through doing what we have been doing that we are still seeing rising numbers of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends dying prematurely and doing so after enduring years of misery through addiction.

The approach has to change. Those who need help have to be treated as people, not as a problem.

If the drug consumption room can prevent overdose deaths and reduce the risk of HIV infection then there can be no other reason not to allow it to be trialled other than blind ideology.

The extra cash announced by the Scottish Government for recovery services is welcome but it is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. And if it is to be spent on providing more of the existing services then we will see people continue to die in their hundreds.

It takes a monumental effort for someone consumed by drugs or alcohol to free themselves from addiction. It will require a similar commitment from society. Or are we content to let people die?