Homeless drug users have been warned that they are dicing with death
Homeless alcoholics who drink in parks and public spaces. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Lizzie Healey
Labour MSP Pauline McNeill told the Scottish Parliament that since mid-November, over 20 homeless people have died due to the availability of a high-strength street valium known as street blues—that is three deaths a week.
She added: “The problem is not confined to Glasgow—it is in other places in Scotland—but it is certainly biggest in Glasgow.
“The situation is unprecedented and presents a new problem on our streets.
“Last month, a drugs gang was jailed for producing at least £1.6 million-worth of that type of street valium, but that has not dented the supply.”
Ms McNeill asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for assurances that there will be “a considered response, and ensure that people are warned about the dangers of this drug?
“There must also be a much wider multi-agency approach to get these deadly drugs off our streets and to save lives where we can.”
The First Minister told McNeill that she was already on the case.
Pauline McNeill MSP – warning to avoid using street valium.
She said: “Obviously, we are aware of an increase in street valium being implicated in deaths, usually when it is used in combination with opiates.
“Significant harms are associated with poly-drug use; most drug-related deaths are of people who take more than one substance.
“The Glasgow city alcohol and drug partnership has already met to discuss this issue and what further action can be taken to respond.
“It continues to promote a range of outreach activity as well as provide harm reduction information specifically on the issue of street valium. The partnership is implementing a treatment protocol for the management of dependence associated with the use of street valium for those most at risk and identifying barriers to treatment through focus groups with people at risk who are not already in contact with treatment services.
“We will continue to work closely with all alcohol and drug partnerships to monitor drug trends and ensure that public information is as it should be. We also work closely with the police in all aspects of drug policy and enforcement, including counterfeit prescription medication.
“Those are important issues and all agencies involved have a responsibility to ensure that the action that is being taken meets the challenge that is posed. I would be very happy to ask the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing to meet Pauline McNeill if she wants further information on the action and discussions being undertaken.”