A qualitative study of GPs' attitudes to drug misusers and drug misuse services in primary care



McKeown A, Matheson C & Bond CM (2003) A qualitative study of GPs' attitudes to drug misusers and drug misuse services in primary care. Family Practice, 20 (2), pp. 120-125.

Background. Due to a growing drug misuse problem in Scotland, GPs increasingly are being called upon to deal with and treat misusers. With the publication of government guidelines in 1999, debate on this subject has intensified, with some GPs questioning their role in the treatment of drug misuse. Objectives. This study explored, in depth, GPs' views and experiences of providing services for drug misusers such as methadone maintenance, use of guidelines and shared care schemes. Factors influencing their treatment of drug misusers were covered. Methods. Forty-eight semi-structured GP telephone interviews were conducted and their responses recorded, transcribed and analysed using qualitative content analysis. The sample was purposive and included a spread of individuals from varying age groups, levels of involvement with drug misuse and training, as well as gender and health board. Transcripts were validated with a 50% sample of interviewees, allowing them to correct any opinions they felt were not represented accurately. Results. GPs increasingly accept a role in the treatment of drug dependency, although a shared care model was preferred due to the workload implications of this patient group. A drawback of shared care was long waiting lists. Patient behaviour emerged as a strong theme influencing treatment, and safety concerns were evident. Views of methadone maintenance were mixed, and it was considered as the only real option available. Conclusion. Themes identified from the interviews reinforced the patterns of past research. GPs are becoming more confident and comfortable with misusers, and more positive towards methadone and methadone maintenance treatment, but still feel that they lack the necessary knowledge and skills.

Drug misuse; general practice; qualitative; shared care.

Family Practice: Volume 20, Issue 2

Publication date30/04/2003
Date accepted by journal04/11/2002
PublisherOxford University Press

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Professor Catriona Matheson
Professor Catriona Matheson

Professor in Substance Use, Faculty of Social Sciences