THE lives of people battling with addiction issues are still being put at risk because they are being told they will have to wait for weeks or even months to get medication and therapy, and being refused options such as rehab because they live in the “wrong postcode”, it has been claimed.

The Sunday National heard from campaigners and service providers who are frustrated that calls for “zero barriers” to treatment across Scotland have still not been heard. Tracey McClusker, manager of NHS Lothian addiction service in Dalkeith, who has been seconded to the Drug Death task force three days a week, said that people must be offered choices of treatment including rehab services and “punitive” sanctions which see people struck off treatment programmes for missing appointments, must be halted.

READ MORE: Plans for safe injecting facilities for drug users in Glasgow

She said: “We are still hearing reports of people being told they have to wait three or four months for treatment. The fear is that if you have to wait that long you are going to end up dead. “We are looking for zero-barrier access so people can access prescriptions on the same day and for people to access their treatment of choice when they present.

“We still hear of people being judged when they access services – we must make our services more attractive and compassionate.”

Charities such as Favor UK have highlighted concerns about the lack of places available in residential care with Glasgow City Council cutting the number of rehab places from 55 to 14 beds. The Scottish Government is now reviewing provision across the county and some of an additional £20 million announced last week will go into funding provision.

READ MORE: UK Minister under fire after leaving drug conference halfway through

But several people told the Sunday National that changes must be made more urgently. One man, who didn’t want to be identified, said he had been able to get the help he needed in mid-Lothian but had friends who had been told the wait for services could be up to five months. He knew others in the Borders who could not access rehab because the NHS would not fund them to go to Castle Craig – the local residential centre – which is now used largely by Dutch patients, funded by their own health service. He said people were dying due to the problems getting help.

“If I had not got the help I have I don’t think I would be here,” he said. He is now on Subutex [methadone alternative] and is not using illegal substances. But he is one of only three survivors of his friendship group and his partner died days before they were due to get married.