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Minimum pricing could see increase in drug use

This news post is about 6 years old

A doctor has warned that more must be done to stop heavy drinkers turning to prescription drugs

Minimum pricing could result in drinkers swapping alcohol for prescription drugs, a doctor has warned.

Forth Valley’s Dr Michael Colvin said that research should have been carried out on heavy drinkers transferring their addiction.

The process of introducing a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland began more than five years ago, and is finally due to be introduced in the spring after a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association was blocked.

Campaigners have said the legislation – which is due to see a minimum price of 50p per unit introduced – will save lives.

However Dr Colvin - a paediatrician who has worked on addiction projects - said predictions that 2,000 lives would be saved during a 20-year period did not take into account fatalities that could arise due to an increase in substance abuse.

"Consumers of large volumes of cheap alcohol must be vulnerable to drug use...we all want MUP to be a success, but some unhappy Scots, finding their favourite tipple out of reach, may simply reach for the painkillers,” the doctor wrote in the Herald.

He added: "I don't think minimum pricing is a bad idea, it's just that I think there are other things going on in the population that might make it appear like a failure.

"If it's not dealing with the underlying problem [of despair], there's a potential for the problem just to change into an opioid problem or something else."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is a clear and proven link between alcohol consumption and harm. That is why our focus is on implementing minimum unit pricing on 1 May, so we can start to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to families and communities across the country."