Scotland needs a new system of dealing with the drug deaths crisis as the punishment approach has not worked, according to the final Drug Deaths Taskforce report.

Next week, the latest drug deaths statistics will be released, expected to again show a shocking death toll.

The final report of the taskforce, after three years of work, outlines 10 key principles and 20 recommendations to tackle the drug-related deaths crisis.

READ MORE: Elitist approach to drugs policy must end if we want results

It states: “We are calling for an end to stigma, discrimination and punishment creating a new system based on care, compassion and human rights.”

The report said two principles underpinned the work, stating: “Drug-related deaths are preventable and we must act now.

“Scotland and the Scottish Government must focus on what can be done within our powers.”

The taskforce recommends the UK Government consider drug consumption facilities, wants a most extensive Naloxone network in the UK and licensed drug checking services.

It also states: “Wherever an individual lives in Scotland, they should be able to access crisis and stabilisation, detoxification and rehabilitation services at the point of need.”

READ MORE: Services must improve to tackle drug deaths warn campaigners in Glasgow

David Strang, chair of the taskforce, said: “We know that factors such as poverty and inequality, trauma, mental ill health, alcohol and drug dependency are all closely linked.

"Addiction is not a crime and you cannot punish people out of addiction. That has been the approach for years and it hasn’t worked.

Glasgow Times:

“What is needed now is a comprehensive, consistent and person-centred system of care, which takes account of local need.

"A system which is appropriately funded to respond to the public health emergency it faces. Our report says what needs to be said and identifies what needs to change.”

The taskforce had a number of recommendations on the justice system.

It said the justice system should present a "meaningful pathway to provide support for people who use drugs" and care between custody and the community should be "seamless".

It stated: "Alcohol and drug partnerships should proactively engage with justice services to detail what support is available in their area. 

"Being held in police custody is often a crisis point in someone’s life. Holistic support should therefore be available for all people who use drugs when entering, being held in and leaving custody."

It called for prison releases on a Friday or the day before a public holiday to be banned to give people a better chance to access support.

In 2020, 1339 people died of a drug related death, a record high for seven years in a row.  

Provisional police figures for the last six months, to March 2022, estimate 573 deaths occurred.