THERE is little more frustrating than someone who settles on an ideological position out of prejudice and then works backwards to justify their stance.

A more mature way of operating is to look at an issue from all angles and then decide on a position, working forwards to try to come up with positive solutions.

The Conservatives are rightly facing frustration and criticism for drug policies that seem to be arrived at out of either prejudice or ignorance - certainly not empathy, evidence or common sense.

There's been much said recently about the hypocrisy of prime ministerial wannabes Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who both admit to having taken drugs but who still support the hard line approach on drugs taken by the UK government.

There has been much said about the UK government's persistence in blocking a safe injecting room in Glasgow, a space that would form part of a sensible public health approach to drug use. We know that you cannot punish away a person's addiction.

We have also seen how resoundingly successful a public health approach has been to Scotland's endemic gang violence rates.

But it's a no from the Tories.


Trans people aren't the problem - men are

Despite all the evidence that a punishment-based approach to tackling drug use does not work, nevertheless they persist.

And the latest reactive tosh is quite special indeed.

"The Conservatives," a press release says, "Have called for alternative treatments for drug addicts as figures indicate hundreds of people were taken to hospital after overdosing on the heroin replacement methadone."

Great. Let's hear what alternative treatments the Tories are suggesting as these awful figures are revealed.

Annie Wells MSP says that heroin addicts, who are offered methadone to support them in coming off the drug, should be offered "actual help". Plenty of health experts would describe methadone programmes as "actual help" and, in fact, evidence-based policy but ok... so let's hear what actual help drug addicts should be offered.

We'll read on to find out.

"We need to remember," Ms Wells opines, "That the vast majority of these people want to give up drugs altogether." This comment is somewhat unfortunate in tone and content. These people. It's not the most empathy-laden turn of phrase.

And "want to give up drugs altogether". Of course. Being an addict is not exactly the most joyous way of life. If you couple it with living on the street or prostituting yourself to feed an addiction then yes, it rather goes without saying that the majority of people living with addiction would rather be living without it.

There is an extraordinary gap between saying you want to kick your drug habit and having the willpower, or the stability in your life, to enable you to do so.


Who is really to blame for school's bedbug problem?

During that gap from using to recovering, addicted people will die. Scottish drug deaths, as we are constantly told, are more than double the rate of the rest of the UK. Methadone is a means of keeping people alive.

While we're waiting for a description of "actual help" from the Tories, let's look at the numbers offered in the press release.

"A total of 222 people were admitted to hospital in 2017-18 due to methadone overdoses." Awful. But the figures presented do not specify whether methadone was the cause of the overdose or whether methadone was present at the time of the overdose.

Drugs experts say that overdoses are often down to a mix of poly-drug use and alcohol. It's difficult to attribute to one specific substance.

We're still waiting to hear the what the "actual help" should be. But first, a dig at the SNP's policy.

Ms Wells goes on: "But all [these people] get is an SNP government which either feeds them methadone with no other alternative considered or allows them to inject the ruinous heroin for free at a state-run facility.

"That's unimaginative and will only worsen Scotland's already shocking drug problem.

"It's time to see efforts going into changing the lives of heroin addicts for good, not making things worse for them." The end.

So, no suggestions. No suggestions at all. Is that not, then, unimaginative? Here's some possible suggestions: tackle poverty, ditch austerity, invest in social housing, end benefit sanctions.

We need to take a public health approach to drugs. Punitive approaches and insistence on abstinence and the be-all and end-all does not work.

The Just Say No campaign ended in the 1990s. With the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys back on stage, perhaps there's been some confusion between what's retro and what's retrograde.