A Plaid Cymru MS is to set up a cross-party on substance misuse as part of a “national conversation” in the Senedd.
Peredur Owen Griffiths revealed the news in a short debate to discuss how Wales could develop a more effective system for treating substance abuse, misuse and addiction.
The MS for South Wales East said he wanted to bring together experts in the field to find ways to deliver better outcomes and treat those in need with more compassion.
During his short debate, Peredur used the example of Portugal, as a country which had a serious drug problem but turned things around in a short space of time.
“Drug deaths remain stubbornly high in large parts of the UK,” said Peredur. “We have to remember that behind each death there is a human cost that reverberates in the family and friends of the deceased for the years that follow.
“As with all statistics, we should never lose sight of the human cost to society and to our communities. Nor should we forget about the havoc this policy is having on countries where production of drugs is fought over on a daily basis between rival cartels. Mexico is a prime example of a country which has been destabilised as a result of this drug policy.
“What I am here for this evening is to advocate for a national conversation that looks to establish a better, more compassionate system of treating addicts.
“We need to understand the lived experience of all parties concerned and give due consideration to all possible solutions.
“Whichever party you represent in the Senedd, or whatever your views are on substance abuse and addiction, I hope we can agree that the status quo is not working.
“If you remain unconvinced, perhaps ask yourself why the war on drugs did not end generations ago if it was working?”
He added: “I don’t want this short debate to be just about illegal drugs when alcohol causes so much misery in communities and families throughout Wales. It would be remiss of me not to mention alcohol when stats have previously suggested that around 10 people die every week in Wales from alcohol related causes.
“It is also estimated that alcohol leads to around 60,000 hospital admissions in Wales, costing the NHS around £159 million annually. With the NHS creaking under the pressure surely finding ways to dealing with the adverse effects of alcohol misuse should be a priority.
“I want us to get to a position where people who take the brave step of asking for help to overcome addictions – whether that is for drugs or alcohol – know that help will be forthcoming and comprehensive.”
He concluded the debate by saying: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers - I’m not sure any one person has. But I would like to start a discussion about how we could tackle substance abuse more effectively and ensure addicts get the support they need to get their lives back on track.
“I want the various agencies charged with assisting substance abusers to come together on a regular basis and speak about their problems and observations with Members of the Senedd. This is why I am taking steps to start a cross-party group on substance misuse so that we develop best practice.
“I have the support already of key agencies like Kaleidoscope but I hope as many organisations and figures will come on board. I also have the support to two Members of the Senedd from different parties to form the cross-party group. I hope many more of you will join.
“It is my preference – and that of my party’s - that Wales eventually achieves devolution of justice powers and, when we do, we draw up a system that is compassionate, reduces harm and releases the stranglehold that many criminal gangs have upon the weak and vulnerable in our communities.
“To that end, I hope we can count on your support Minister to engage with this cross-party group and develop policy that seeks to achieve these aims and start a wider conversation that leads to a more effective approach to tackling substance abuse, substance misuse and substance addiction.”
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