SCOTLAND is leading the world in illicit drugs deaths, with 1,187 in 2018 – three times the deaths from drugs south of the Border ("MPS call for emergency to be declared in response to surge in drug deaths", The Herald, November 4). Why is that? Is it poverty, unemployment, poor rehabilitation services trapping people in their addictions? A look in the doors of our prisons and mental hospitals reveal the wasted lives from drug addictions.

Successive Westminster governments, which control our drugs laws, have failed to address drugs deaths, drugs laws and the wide range of solutions that could have made a difference.

Instead they have stuck with successive American governments' policies, blaming the addicts, throwing billions of dollars at prescribing methadone, using police and customs controls as the solution. Nancy Reagan’s failed “just say no to drugs” campaigns, which were then re-marketed as the Scotland Against Drugs campaign, heavily supported by our police and by parents, also failed.

In 1965 I worked with heroin addicts in East Harlem in New York. They had started their methadone programme three years earlier and fast realised it did not work, as it trapped addicts in another addictive drug. Twenty-five years later we adopted this failed approach.

These failed policies were about wishing the drug problem would go away. They failed and have denied addicts the help they need. Our horrendous deaths are of adults, long trapped in their addiction, not children. Almost all of the 1,187 deaths are of people in their late twenties to mid-forties; people who have been failed by underfunded drugs rehabilitation policies and left deprived of appropriate help. Almost all of these addicts have undiagnosed and untreated serious mental health problems, for which we have offered no help. The UK Government has learned nothing from this, and has steadfastly refused to delegate to the Scottish Government the powers it needs in order to develop different solutions to our very different drug problem.

Drug problems are still controlled under the Department of Justice, unlike like tobacco and alcohol which are dealt with by the Health Ministry. Drugs misuse is a health problem. We in Scotland have been allowed to develop our own tobacco and alcohol policies. We have in a fairly short time massively lowered the level of smoking. The alcohol problem is reducing by the day and recent reports tells us that children and students are now losing interest in alcohol.

Our request for the power to decriminalise illicit drugs has been already with met a big no from Boris Johnson. If we could try decriminalisation as a way to stop wasting millions on police, court and prisons the savings could be put into preventing another cohort of addicts dying needlessly. The UK Government has offered no other workable solutions, so why is it afraid to allow Scotland to lead the way in finding solutions to this massive health scandal?

We tried American solutions – they failed us.

We tried Westminster solutions – they failed us.

Let Scotland try its own solutions; we will not let those suffering from addictions and mental health problems down.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow G12.