“Why Would We Not Want to Keep Everybody Safe?” Views of Family Members of People Who Use Drugs and Strategic Decisions Makers on the Implementation of Drug Consumption Rooms in Scotland

Author: Tracey Price Tessa Parkes

Theme: Social Science & Policy Research Year: 2022

Background: A developing Scottish and international evidence base indicates that drug consumption
rooms (DCRs) can reduce drug-related health harms such as HIV transmission and drug-related
death. When several studies have explored public attitudes toward DCRs, there has been a lack of
research to examine the perspectives of family members of people who use drugs, and strategic
decision-makers, concerning DCR implementation.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen family members and twenty-six
strategic decision-makers. A broad conceptualisation of family members was used which included,
for example, step relationships, grandparents, and siblings. Strategic decision-makers included
individuals with strategic roles in local and national politics, third sector/policy organisations,
peer/advocacy organisations and healthcare. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and
thematically analysed using Framework.
Results: Most family members interviewed for this study described DCRs as a vital harm reduction
measure capable of reducing drug-related harms such as overdose and death. Family members
described several benefits of DCR implementation. Most, however, viewed stigma as a barrier to
implementation. Stigma was also described as a barrier to implementation by strategic decisionmakers, who were also in support of implementation. Both groups described a need for community
engagement and public awareness campaigns to increase the likelihood of DCR implementation
being publicly and politically endorsed. Strategic decision-makers described the complexity of the
Scottish legal and political system, with some expressing concern that DCRs could appear as a
‘political football’ with neither the devolved Scottish Government, nor the central UK Government,
approving implementation.
Conclusion: Importantly, the study found relative consensus between family members and strategic
decision-makers concerning an urgent need for DCR implementation. Both groups expressed a need
to progress toward implementation without delay. While the study generated highly relevant
findings, given the relatively small sample size findings cannot be considered representative of all
stakeholder or family member views across Scotland.
Disclosure of Interest Statement:
During part of this study Dr James Nicholls was employed by Transform Drug Policy Foundation,
which has advocated for the establishment of Drug Consumption Rooms. Transform received no
funding from organisations or donors with a financial interest in the establishment of DCRs and
would not benefit financially from their adoption. Other authors declare no conflict of interest.

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