Coronavirus: Increase in support for Scottish drug users

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Prisoners on daily methadone prescriptions are to be switched to a weekly or monthly alternative to aid social isolation in jails.

About one in four inmates is prescribed the heroin substitute but the prison service will now issue Buvidal.

This treatment is administered by a seven or 28-day injectable dose.

The Scottish government said the move would reduce the need for daily contact and reduce pressure on prison officers and the NHS.

In addition, the use of special kits which temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses is to be expanded.

The Lord Advocate has ruled that any registered service issuing the Naloxone kits will not face prosecution.

Video caption Coronavirus: Naloxone use to be increased to help drug users

This was welcomed by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman who said widening the availability of the overdose reversal drug was a "precautionary measure" given that access to drug support services had been affected by the pandemic.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick added: "We must not lose sight of the fact there continues to be a significant number of highly vulnerable individuals who are at great risk of harm as a result of alcohol and drug use, who continue to need a wide range of help and support."

Mr Fitzpatrick welcomed the lord advocate's statement of prosecution policy on Naloxone, saying it would "help to ensure that we can continue to support those affected by drug use and keep them safe".

Image caption The single injection of the Naxolone antidote works by disabling the opiate receptors in the body, blocking the effects of the opiate drugs taken

Latest figures released by the Scottish government show that a further 12 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died, taking the total to 1,571 deaths in Scotland by that measure.

There are 1,666 patients in hospital with a suspected or confirmed case of coronavrius, with 99 being treated in intensive care.

Ms Freeman points out the number of patients in intensive care is under 100 for the first time since 29 March, saying it is "very encouraging news".

In the daily briefing, the health secretary also said the Scottish government was "taking significant action" on mental health.

She announced £200,000 in extra funding for autism organisations and £105,000 going to Young Scot for the provision of new digital content on mental wellbeing for children and young people - available on social media outlets.

On support for families, who may be feeling the strain during lockdown, there is a pledge of £700,000 for The Spark counselling service.

Contact tracing concerns

Ms Freeman said the Scottish government would, in the coming days, announce further details of the measures it would deploy to start a programme of contact tracing.

Professor Linda Bauld, of Edinburgh University, told Politics Scotland the UK had been "slow" in setting up contact tracing systems, which relied on technology - through the use of apps - and a human workforce who could conduct the tracing.

The academic said she had seen adverts in England for contact tracing staff and non-clinical staff, but was "not seeing those ads in Scotland".

She added: "We need to increase those numbers quickly so we are ready to go."