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Scotland’s first heroin assisted treatment service goes under the microscope

Tuesday December 3rd, 2019

Addictions experts at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are leading a new study into Scotland’s first heroin assisted treatment service.medical_6945945Med

A team of top researchers from the University, working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Kings College London and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow have been awarded £291,000 by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, to carry out a major study into the Glasgow city service during its first two and a half years.

Scientists will explore all aspects of how the service is implemented, including views from both service staff and patients, and the findings will be used to shape the future of the facility as well as to develop a blueprint for similar services in the UK and around the world.
The new heroin assisted treatment facility is the first of its kind in Scotland, where drug users at greatest risk of harms are prescribed pharmaceutical l-grade heroin (diamorphine). Patients will then administer the diamorphine themselves at the facility under the direct supervision of an experienced nurse.

The provision of heroin assisted treatment is part of the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service (EDTS) created by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in response to the city’s drugs crisis. For those accessing the service, it is anticipated that the treatment will help reduce their street heroin use, drug-related crime and set users on a stable path to recovery.

Previous research has found that heroin assisted treatment services in countries including Switzerland, Spain and Germany reduces levels of illicit drug consumption and increases retention in treatment.

Drug-related deaths in Scotland are at a record high with over 1000 lives lost in 2018. Earlier this year, research led by Dr McAuley revealed that Glasgow is experiencing the largest HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs in the UK for more than 30 years.
The study entitled ‘An implementation science evaluation of Scotland’s first Heroin Assisted Treatment facility’ runs from January 2020 until July 2022. GCU researcher Dr Matt Smith will be carrying out the evaluation and Dr McAuley will oversee the research project.

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