A Qualitative Exploration of Three Hypothetical Models of Drug Checking Service Delivery in a Scottish Context

Author: Danilo Falzon Wendy Masterton Hannah Carver Tessa Parkes Liz Aston Vicki Craik Emma Fletcher Joe Schofield Fiona Measham Bruce Wallace Harry Sumnall Roz Gittins Fiona

Theme: Social Science & Policy Research Year: 2022

Scotland is experiencing a public health crisis in relation to drug related deaths. Drug checking allows
people to have their drugs tested, providing harm reduction support and advice. There are currently
no drug checking services in Scotland. This research explored the suitability of different models of
drug checking in a Scottish context.
Forty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted with stakeholders across three Scottish
cities. Stakeholders comprised of: people who use(d) drugs (PWUD); family members of PWUD; and
professional stakeholders (NHS, third sector and police). Participants explored three hypothetical
models of drug checking in a Scottish context. ‘Model one’ was a third sector fixed-site service, with
a mobile van travelling to different locations; ‘Model two’ was a drug checking service in an NHS
substance use service; and ‘Model three’ a drug checking service in a pharmacy.
The third sector model was most popular, with participants highlighting the trust which PWUD often
have with such services. A mobile drug checking van was seen as a means of reaching people who
may not access fixed-site services. However, participants acknowledged complex legal issues around
mobile drug checking. The pharmacy model was popular due to pre-existing footfall at pharmacies
amongst PWUD accessing other harm reduction services. However, participants noted challenges in
relation to the layout of pharmacies, and its suitability for drug checking. The NHS based model was
least popular, with participants highlighting the mistrust which PWUD often feel towards statutory
services. However, participants discussed the specialist staff, links with key services and rigorous
protocols of NHS services as potential resources which could be drawn on to develop a mixed model
of provision.
This research addresses the knowledge-gap in relation to different models of drug checking and their
suitability to different cultural, legal and drug market contexts. It explored potential models of
service delivery for Scotland.
Disclosure of Interest Statement: 
This study was funded by the ‘Corra Foundation/Drugs Death Taskforce’.

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