Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Needle Exchange

I know I don't normally put anything too political on here, but along with 'Chaotic Lifestyles', something that irks me greatly is the subject of drug users discarding their dirty needles. Below is a press release I did on the subject, and if anyone has any views I'd be happy to hear them:

Discarded Needles "Tip of the Iceberg"

Arbroath Councillor Jim Millar has backed Cllr Spink in expressing concern at the amount of discarded needles in the area, but adds that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commenting, Cllr Millar said "The emerging picture of the amount of needles given out to users of illegal drugs and not returned is horrifying. Government statistics published in 1996 show that in Angus, some fifty thousand needles were distributed, giving an average of 156 needles per user per year. That's 3 needles per user per week."

The 'Needle Exchange Provision in Scotland' report showed that in Scotland as a whole, over three and a half million needles were dispensed to users, with only one and a half million needles returned, leaving almost two million needles unaccounted for in Scotland in one year, although it states that the true number is thought to be far higher.

Mr Millar said "I have every sympathy for anyone who is caught in the vice-like grip of drug addiction. The drug trade is fuelled by misery and crime; it destroys lives, families and careers, but sympathy should be tempered by the fact that discarded needles are a danger, especially to kids. It is often because of the high number of discarded needles that our facilities,-parks, shelters, toilets etc. are forced to close, and Council staff, although trained to deal with this, are put at risk when disposing of them."

"The thoughtless and unnecessary actions of a few are putting whole communities in danger and it is especially galling to consider that the majority of this material is actually being supplied by public agencies paid for by the very people being put at risk by this habit. I call on all those concerned to ensure work is concentrated on educating and dealing with those individuals who are causing these problems to ensure responsible disposal becomes the norm not the exception."
"I appreciate that needle exchange programmes were introduced to help combat blood borne infection such as HIV and Hep C, but with this amount of needles in circulation, I believe that more needs to be done to encourage users to return the needles that are issued to them, rather than disposing of them in people's gardens or public toilets."

North East Tory MSP Alex Johnstone backed the stance saying "Discarded needles are only the very tip of the iceberg, figures released only this week show that in the financial year 2006/07 there were 42,422 drug-related offences recorded by Scottish police forces, with 25% for possession with intent to supply, but behind these figures are the many crimes such as burglary and shoplifting that are committed to fund a drug habit. These crimes are being fuelled by the actions of a minority involved in the use, supply and distribution of drugs into every city, town and village in the country.No community is exempt from the activities of these parasites."

Mr Johnstone continued "I applaud the efforts of the Police Service and the Drugs Enforcement Agency but the Scottish government needs to ensure that the resources are available to ensure this crime wave is stopped before it becomes a tidal wave of lawlessness and misery that engulfs us all. I call on the government to ensure the public are protected by ensuring cash and manpower to tackle crime and disorder are given the highest priority within their future budget settlements."

Mr Johnstone has lodged a question with the Scottish Government, noting the growing concern of constituents regarding drug crime and discarded needles and asking what extra efforts and resources the Scottish Government is willing to make available to combat the problem.

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