Falzon D, Parkes T, Carver H, Masterton W, Wallace B, Craik V, Measham F, Sumnall H, Gittins R, Hunter C, Watson K, Mooney JD & Aston EV (2023) “It would really support the wider harm reduction agenda across the board”: A qualitative study of the potential impacts of drug checking service delivery in Scotland. Ray M (Editor) PLOS ONE, 18 (12), Art. No.: e0292812. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0292812
Drug checking services (DCS) enable individuals to voluntarily submit a small amount of a substance for analysis, providing information about the content of the substance along with tailored harm reduction support and advice. There is some evidence suggesting that DCS may lead to behaviour and system change, with impacts for people who use drugs, staff and services, and public health structures. The evidence base is still relatively nascent, however, and several evidence gaps persist. This paper reports on qualitative interviews with forty three participants across three Scottish cities where the implementation of community-based DCS is being planned. Participants were drawn from three groups: professional participants; people with experience of drug use; and affected family members. Findings focus on perceived harm reduction impacts of DCS delivery in Scotland, with participants highlighting the potential for drug checking to impact a number of key groups including: individual service users; harm reduction services and staff; drug market monitoring structures and networks; and wider groups of people who use and sell drugs, in shaping their interactions with the drug market. Whilst continued evaluation of individual health behaviour outcomes is crucial to building the evidence base for DCS, the findings highlight the importance of extending evaluation beyond these outcomes. This would include evaluation of processes such as: information sharing across a range of parties; engagement with harm reduction and treatment services; knowledge building; and increased drug literacy. These broader dynamics may be particularly important for evaluations of community-based DCS serving individuals at higher-risk, given the complex relationship between information provision and health behaviour change which may be mediated by mental and physical health, stigma, and criminalisation and the risk environment. This paper is of international relevance and adds to existing literature on the potential impact of DCS on individuals, organisations, and public health structures.
Drug delivery; Drug research and development; Medical risk factors; Drug information; Police; Public and occupational health; Drug administration; Structure of markets
PLOS ONE: Volume 18, Issue 12
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