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Reducing the damaging impact of drugs and alcohol


Scotland has a long legacy of drug and alcohol misuse. This damages lives, families and communities, and contributes to violence and crime.

Many of those affected will have experienced difficult life circumstances, and are among the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, subject to stigma because of their addiction.

It is estimated that drug misuse costs society £3.5 billion a year whilst the impact of alcohol misuse is estimated to cost £3.6 billion a year - combined, this is around £1,800 for every adult in Scotland.



The Strategy for Justice in Scotland sets out our approach to make the Scottish justice system fit for the 21st century.

In 2008, we published the national drugs strategy for Scotland, The Road to Recovery. This set out a new strategic direction for tackling problem drug use, based on treatment services promoting recovery.

Recent positive evidence include:

  • drug taking in the general population is falling - the findings from the 2014/15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (published 28 June 2016) showed that the number of adults, aged 16-59, who reported drug use in the last year decreased from 6.2% in 2012/13 to 6.0% in 2014/15 (7.6% in the 2008/09 survey).

  • reported drug use has fallen for both females and males between 2008/09 and 2014/15, with a decrease in reported illicit drug use in the last year from 11.1% in comparison to 8.9% amongst men, and a decrease from 4.3% to 3.4% amongst women.

  • drug taking among young people is the lowest in a decade. 
  • 94 % of people starting specialist drug treatment within three weeks of referral

In 2009, we published Scotland’s national alcohol framework which outlines a range of measures to tackle problem alcohol use. A progress report was published in 2012.

Bills and legislation

The classification and control of ‘controlled drugs’ in the United Kingdom is reserved to the UK Government.

The Alcohol Minimum Pricing Scotland Act 2012 was passed in June 2012 and will pave the way for the introduction of a preferred minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. The Act is currently being appealed in the courts.

The Alcohol (Scotland)Act 2010 put into law a ban on multi-buy discounts such as ‘three for two’ or ‘25 per cent off when you buy six’.

Who we are working with

We work with Scotland’s 30 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships which bring together local partners including health boards, local authorities, police and voluntary agencies. They are responsible for developing local strategies for tackling problem alcohol and drug use and promoting recovery, based on an assessment of local needs.

We commission national organisations to support the delivery of the national drugs strategy:

  • Scottish Recovery Consortium
  • Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF)
  • Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD)

We work with Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity whose primary aim is to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems raises awareness and understanding of alcohol-related health problems and find ways to tackle alcohol misuse.

Lloyds Partnership Drugs Initiative promotes voluntary sector work with vulnerable children and young people affected by substance misuse.

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs support families across Scotland who are affected by drugs misuse, and raise awareness of the issues affecting them.

How Scotland is performing

Scotland Performs measures and reports on the progress of government in Scotland. The National Outcomes describe what we want to achieve over the next 10 years.

Health and wellbeing outcomes