Launch of Bristol: Take Drugs Seriously

A series of ground-breaking events that aim to change the way we talk about drug use, policy and harm reduction launches in Bristol tomorrow [Thursday 23 January].

Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a Bristol-based charity, has partnered with the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol to bring together local politicians, leading academics, treatment providers, health agencies and policy reformers to share their knowledge and experiences of drugs and current policy. They will discuss how reforms could better protect people in Bristol and across the UK.

Highlights from the public events to aid the Bristol: Take Drugs Seriously debate include:

  • A mock-up Safer Drug Consumption Room to view;
  • Studies presented on many topics including the use of psychedelics in mental health treatment, how heroin assisted treatment can reduce deaths, and what we can learn from the legal regulation of cannabis in Canada and the United States;
  • Key speakers including former government advisor neuropsychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt , and psychologist Dr Suzi Gage who will be launching her book, ’Say Why to Drugs’;
  • Families and activists marking 4,000 drug deaths in the UK as part of Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control campaign with the planting of hand-made forget-me-nots on College Green.

Dr James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: "Bristol faces unique challenges in relation to drug use and harm, with death rates more than 60 per cent higher than the national average and some of the highest levels of cocaine use in Europe. However, it also has a history of innovation and leadership in thinking differently about drug policy. It was one of the first areas to introduce a police ’diversion scheme’ for people caught in possession, and in 2018, was the first city to offer city-centre drug testing.

"The city is now developing a new strategy for dealing with alcohol and other drugs, so this is an ideal time for the public to get informed and get involved in reshaping how we talk about drug use, regulate supply and protect future generations."

Drs Olivia Maynard and Angela Attwood , psychology lecturers and researchers in drug use and addiction at the University of Bristol, added: "Our research tackles the many myths and misconceptions about drug use and harm reduction. ’Bristol: Take Drugs Seriously’ is a unique opportunity to bring people together, discuss current research and collectively shape our city’s future."

Dr Jack Spicer, criminology lecturer and researcher at the University of the West of England said: "The need for open discussion about drugs and what Bristol should do about them has never been so timely. There are increasing examples of progressive drug policy internationally and local innovations in policing but we also face challenges such as increasing drug related deaths and the burgeoning county lines supply model. Anyone with an interest in the role of drugs in our society and how we should react to these challenges will find expert information and opinion at our events."

David Nutt, Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, added: "I am delighted that Bristol is leading the UK in several important areas of drug policy and I look forward to helping these initiatives."

Dr Suzi Gage, lecturer in psychology at the University of Liverpool, explained: "I’m excited and honoured to have been invited to take part in this event, and to be in the city on the week that my book comes out. I lived and worked in Bristol for 12 years and there is world class research and many initiatives occurring in the city that make it really progressive in terms of drugs research and policy. The Say Why to Drugs podcast was born in Bristol, so it’s great to come back with the book that it inspired."


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