The mum of a young drug death victim believes he could be alive today if Scotland’s drug laws had changed a year earlier.
Grieving mum Tracy Hadlow said the change came too late for her son Nathan, who died, aged 20, in April after failing to get the help he needed to beat his drug addiction.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain has outlined a dramatic new approach that will see warnings given for drug possession, even for class A substances like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.
Scotland will also develop a system of diversions that will see more addicts being steered by police officers towards treatment.
The move was announced on Wednesday after a long running campaign by the Daily Record.
On the Sunday before Nathan died he was hauled into a police station for minor drugs offences, with a court appearance set for the Monday.
He died on the Tuesday night after taking street Valium, cocaine and methadone – a polydrug cocktail. Treatment options were never discussed or apparently ever considered.
Tracy, 52, a clinical support worker in the NHS, told the Record: “I firmly believe that if Nathan got the help he needed by the right professionals he could be here today.
“I begged police to make interventions with him when he was a teenager, to get him out of the way of drug dealers.
“But the bottom line with them was always the same.
“They never discussed diverting him to treatment or doing anything other than arrest people.”
Welcoming this week’s dramatic change in drug policy, Tracy said: “I just feel that if we had arrived at where we are today and there were proper professionals who understand trauma able to speak to him, he could have had a fighting chance.”
Tracy allowed Nathan’s funeral to be filmed and hopes to play a part in local drugs awareness groups, as she feels desperate to do what she can to stop other families suffering as hers has.
Tracy tells how Nathan was troubled by childhood trauma, which should have been taken into account when dealing with his addiction she claims.
His father left the family home when he was five and he was in counselling at seven.
He was drinking Buckfast by 13 and addicted to drugs by 16. He also responded very badly to news that his mum was battling cancer.
By the time he was 17, he ended up in Polmont Young Offenders Institution for petty drug offences.
He died in April aged just 20 without ever having a job or a chance of a normal life.
Tracy said: “His father left home when he was five and he was affected by that. Nathan was outgoing and really good company and kind hearted but he had another side to him that was hard to reach.
“We have photos of him at 13 drinking Buckfast, which isn’t normal. He was patching up problems in his past and I am certain his addictions are rooted in trauma.
“By the time he was 17 he was lost to drugs and already getting sentenced to time in Polmont. He got caught up in the usual crimes to feed his habit.
“As soon as Nathan turned 17 everything changed. He was just another drugs offender and he got rounded up and charged and convicted and sent to jail.
“How in the world could that have done anything for him anything than make his situation worse?”
Tracy said she also welcomes moves to address trauma when sentencing people under the age of 25 who appear in Scottish courts.
The Scottish Sentencing Council (SSC) has recommended that judges take adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) into account when sentencing young people in a bid to break the link between trauma and reoffending.
Rehab is an option that courts will consider when addiction is present.
The reforms outlined in the Scottish parliament by the Lord Advocate state that people caught with class A drugs will be able to receive police warnings instead of being referred to prosecutors.
Dorothy Bain announced the dramatic move in response to Scotland’s shocking drugs death figures.
1,339 deaths were registered in Scotland in 2020 – the largest number since records began in 1996.
In a statement to MSPs, Bain announced a new policy on diversion from prosecution, which has been in place for several years but is being ramped up, as more treatment options hopefully become available.
Police officers may choose to deal with low-level offences by issuing a Recorded Police Warning.
The guidelines have allowed police up to now to issue these warnings to people for possession of Class B and C drugs, like cannabis and amphetamine.