Why are drug-related deaths among women increasing in Scotland? A mixed-methods analysis of possible explanations



Tweed EJ, Miller RG, Schofield J, Barnsdale L & Matheson C (2022) Why are drug-related deaths among women increasing in Scotland? A mixed-methods analysis of possible explanations. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 29 (1), pp. 62-75.

Drug-related deaths have increased significantly in Scotland in recent years, with a much greater percentage increase in deaths among women than among men. We undertook a mixed-methods project to identify explanations for this trend, comprising three parallel methodological strands: (i) an analysis of available routine data, including drug treatment data, death registrations, and surveys of people using needle exchanges; (ii) thematic analysis of interviews and focus groups with professional stakeholders and (iii) secondary analysis of interviews with women who use drugs. Results indicated that the observed trend is likely to reflect multiple, interacting causes. Potential contributors identified were: ageing; changing patterns of substance use; increasing prevalence of physical and mental health co-morbidities; changing relationships and parenting roles; changes to treatment services and wider health and social care provision; unintended consequences or poor implementation of recovery-oriented practice; and changes in the social security system. Policy responses to rising drug-related death rates require a gender-informed approach, recognising the commonalities and differences between men and women who use drugs; the diversity of experiences within each gender; and the intersections between gender and other forms of inequality, such as poverty.

drug use; gender; mortality

Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy: Volume 29, Issue 1

FundersMedical Research Council, Medical Research Council, Chief Scientist Office, Chief Scientist Office and Chief Scientist Office
Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online11/12/2020
Date accepted by journal23/11/2020
PublisherInforma UK Limited

People (2)


Professor Catriona Matheson

Professor Catriona Matheson

Professor in Substance Use, Faculty of Social Sciences

Mr Joe Schofield

Mr Joe Schofield

Tutor, Housing Studies