SNP MSP Ruth Maguire has welcomed measures taken by the Scottish Government to protect the lives of people affected by drug use during the coronavirus outbreak.

Distribution restrictions on the overdose reversing drug, naloxone, have also been relaxed by the Lord Advocate enabling wider availability and access for people at risk of suffering an opioid over-dose.

Measures taken also include funding support of £1.9 million to support people in prison on pre-scribed Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) to switch to a new longer-acting form called buvidal. £150,000 is also being provided for residential rehabilitation services to increase capacity for people for people leaving prison in order to aid their recovery.

The MSP for Cunninghame South said: “The Lord Advocate’s statement of prosecution policy will allow services which are likely to witness an overdose but are not classed as ‘drug treatment’ services to supply naloxone kits to people at risk of an overdose.

“This is a very welcome development in ensuring that support is still available for vulnerable people affected by addiction during the coronavirus outbreak and will hopefully reduce the number of avoidable deaths by opioid overdose.

“The drug deaths crisis in Scotland precedes the current pandemic. Measures such as this should pave the way for more person-centred drug treatments for people at risk of death by overdose when we emerge from lockdown.”

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “While this public health crisis is ongoing, 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.

“Furthermore, a high proportion of those leaving or about to leave prison will require support for their recovery from problem alcohol or drug. Funding to pay for additional residential rehabilitation places will support their recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services.

“I welcome the Lord Advocate’s statement of prosecution policy in respect of the distribution of naloxone during the period of disruption caused by COVID-19. This will help to ensure that we can continue to support those affected by drug use and keep them safe.”