Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Spokesperson and former cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey MP joined Bristol West Prospective MP James Cox on a visit to Bristol Drugs Project to look at the drug and addiction-related issues faced in Bristol.
Bristol Drugs Project is a Bristol-based charity working to help people with drugs and alcohol problems. The charity has been going for 32 years and offers free and confidential services aimed at reducing harm and promoting change.
Ed Davey, Kingston & Surbiton MP and Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, said:
"It was a privilege to meet with Maggie, her staff and people who use and have used this vital service in the past.
"From our discussions with current users of the service, it's clear that the current system just isn't working. But it goes a step beyond that. The way society views service users - stigmatises their addiction - can lead to issues with mental health and can put off users from seeking proper advice and support.
“We need to break the stigma and support people with addiction. Having organisations like Bristol Drugs Project who offer services which are easy to access, supportive and confidential and have the funding to do what they need to do could transform our communities.”
James Cox, Liberal Democrat Prospective MP for Bristol West, said:
"It was eye-opening to have a first-hand account of the day-to-day life of people who run Bristol Drugs Project and those who use their services. Addiction is not a choice and treating people who suffer from it as criminals ruins lives and causes immense harm.
"Instead of criminalising addiction, we should be looking at ways to provide support and rehabilitation. Easy access to good services, a safe place from stigma and controlled usage environments could go a long way to tackling the addiction crisis in Bristol and the rest of the country.
“Bristol is a pioneer in this sector and my goal over the next few years will be putting pressure on the government to allow Bristol to pilot new schemes aimed at reducing harms and educating about drugs and alcohol abuse. Programmes like drug consumption rooms have saved lives across Europe and around the world, and its time we looked at the evidence and made decisions on fact not prejudice.”
Maggie Telfer, CEO of Bristol Drugs Project, said:
"Bristol Drugs Project is always interested in meeting people keen to hear about our services and we were pleased to welcome Ed Davey – Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson and colleagues to BDP on 23 November to meet staff and service users.
"Our discussions included the distribution of Naloxone to reduce drug-related deaths; the strength of Bristol’s GP-based drug treatment system; the health needs of older people using alcohol and drugs; experiences of the futility of short prison sentences and Bristol’s Drug Education Programme diverting people from the criminal justice system.
“However, by far the most powerful conversation throughout the visit was the description of the daily prejudice experienced by people with a current or past problem with their use of alcohol or drugs – a major barrier to change.”
The Liberal Democrats have committed to ending the 'war on drugs' with several reformist policies, including ending the imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs for personal use, moving the department lead to Health and introducing a legal and regulated cannabis market.