New research project to inform Scotland’s drug deaths response

Issued: Tue, 15 Dec 2020 13:49:00 GMT

Published 15th December 2020

Researchers from the University of Glasgow are launching a new research project to inform responses to drug-related harms and deaths in Scotland.

The Scottish Drug-Related Deaths Study is funded by the Chief Scientist Office and led by Dr Kathryn Skivington of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, working with colleagues from the Universities of Glasgow, Stirling and St Andrews, Drugs Research Network for Scotland, Public Health Scotland and NHS clinicians.

The project consists of two workstreams: 

  • A network analysis of linked Scottish health data will identify clusters of health and social conditions among people who have a drug-related death. This will explore ‘syndemics’ - the existence of interacting health conditions within the context of social and economic inequalities - within this population.
  • A wide-ranging stakeholder group will review results of this analysis plus other evidence and expert opinion. Their discussions will be guided by a ‘systems’ approach, which is designed to understand how multiple individual and social factors contribute to drive Scottish drug-related deaths.

The aim is to improve understanding of the health and social circumstances surrounding drug-related deaths and specifically to inform the development of interventions likely to have the greatest impact in reducing these avoidable deaths.

The project will involve people with insights into the factors driving Scottish drug-related deaths including people with lived/living experience of drug use, voluntary sector drug services, health and social care service providers, local/national politicians and policy makers, Police, and international academics.

Dr Skivington said: “This study will take a novel approach, combining systems and syndemics theory, and drawing on experiential evidence and population-level data, to better understand drug-related deaths in Scotland. Drug-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality among men aged 15-44 in Scotland, and the main contributor to inequalities in mortality. Crucially, our study will facilitate the development of initiatives aiming to reverse the current trend of increasing drug-related deaths and widening inequalities in Scotland”

Professor Catriona Matheson, who is leading the Scottish Government Drug Deaths Taskforce said: " this project will provide much needed evidence to direct interventions more precisely at those at highest risk of drug related harm."

For more information on the Scottish Drug-Related Deaths Study visit the project’s website.


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