Deaths from alcohol and drug addiction in Scotland have increased significantly over the last 30 years.

Figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show 1,276 people died from conditions caused by alcohol in 2022 compared to 410 in 1992.

The number of people who died from drug-related conditions was 1,051 in 2022 compared to 311 in 1992. NRS will publish figures for 2023 in August.

Every death is a personal tragedy and a life cut short. No one would disagree that we should do everything possible to tackle this issue and reduce addiction related deaths.

One attempt to do so is the Right to Addiction Recovery (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Douglas Ross MSP last week.

The Bill provides for a right for anyone diagnosed as having a drug and/or alcohol addiction to receive a treatment determination. Treatment would have to be provided as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than three weeks from the date of the determination.

The aims of this initiative should command widespread support and it would be sad and unforgivable if tribal party politics stymied that.

There is no party political ideology in the scope of the Bill. It seeks to enhance access to addiction treatment services through a rights-based approach. Its focus is on individual needs and choices.

A new statutory right to treatment aligns with the principle of universal healthcare access which is supported across all political spectrums in Scotland.

By enshrining the right to treatment in law the Bill empowers individuals, giving them the ability to challenge decisions and advocate for their needs. Such empowerment would help address the power imbalance experienced by those seeking treatment for recovery.

The Bill is designed to be flexible and inclusive, allowing for current and future treatment options. The proposed legislation would be able to adapt to new treatment methods and ideas.

The focus is on improving health outcomes and supporting recovery through legal means, which is a non-partisan issue that should attract broad support.

One misconception is that the Bill it is anti-harm reduction. Annmarie Ward is the chief executive of Face and Voices of Recovery UK and has been closely involved in the formation and development of the Bill. For her the proposed legislation would assist current harm reduction strategies.

Annmarie said: “Overall, the Right to Recovery Bill is not anti-harm reduction but rather an inclusive legislative proposal designed to ensure that all individuals have the legal right to access the treatment and support they choose. It complements existing harm reduction strategies by providing a legal framework that supports an integrated approach to addiction treatment”.

The Bill is not against specific harm reduction measures like Drugs Consumption Rooms (DCRs). It seeks to amend the 1978 NHS (Scotland) Act to include all agreed treatment-based interventions, including new future treatment options.

The term “recovery” in the Bill encompasses all available treatment options, not just abstinence-based approaches. It aims to provide a legal framework where individuals can access a person-centred care plan of their choice, without being pushed toward any unwanted treatments.

The Bill does not replace current strategies but underpins them with legal support. This will ensure that any strategies are enforceable and that individuals’ rights to choose their treatment plans are respected.