Research reveals unexpectedly high levels of physical and sexual abuse in drug addicts

Issued: Mon, 16 May 2005 00:00:00 BST

Research to be published next month reveals for the first time the level of sexual and physical abuse amongst drug addicts seeking treatment in Scotland. In a study of over 1000 drug users contacting drug abuse treatment services across Scotland the researchers found that nearly two thirds of women (62%) had been physically abused and over a third (35%) had been sexually abused. In the case of male addicts nearly a quarter (22%) said that they had been physically abused and 7% said that they had been sexually abused. In the case of females over half of those who had been sexually abused had been abused by a relative or family friend whilst almost a third had been sexually abused by a partner. In the case of male drug users the study found that most of the physical abuse involved a relative or family friend.

This study has provided the first detailed information on the proportion of drug addicts seeking treatment who have suffered physical or sexual abuse. Whilst it is not possible to conclusively suggest that the abuse identified in this study has caused the individual's drug abuse it is possible that in many cases this may have occurred. The research shows very clearly that drug abuse services in Scotland need to be aware that a substantial proportion of their clients are survivors of physical and sexual abuse and to be able to support these individuals accordingly. Professor Neil McKeganey of the University of Glasgow's Centre for Drugs Misuse Research, who led the research team undertaking this work, expressed surprise at the level of abuse which had been identified in the research: " Up till now the level of abuse amongst drug addicts in Scotland has not been known. This research shows that many addicts have been abused in the past and many are still in abusive relationships. We know from other research that such abuse can seriously undermine individual's attempts to recover from their drug abuse. This research further underlines the challenge we face in Scotland in helping addicts to recover".

Kate Richardson (

The research was undertaken by a team at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow led by Professor Neil McKeganey. The research which will be published next month in the leading addiction journal ?Drugs Education Policy and Prevention? was funded by the Robertson Trust. Professor Neil McKeganey can be contacted on 07764 659006 or 0141 330 3616.

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