Mcauley, A. and Forsyth, A.J. (2010), The impact of drug-related death on staff who have experienced it as part of their caseload: An exploratory study. Journal of Substance Use, Informa Healthcare, Vol. 16, No. 1 , Pages 68-78.
Background: Previous research into drug-related death (DRD) has targeted specific groups such as the deceased themselves, witnesses, or families of victims. There has been no research on staff working in the substance misuse field and the impact that DRD has had on them.
Method: A postal questionnaire survey was conducted across a Scottish health authority area and quantitatively measured the impact that this event had on the work, health, and social life.
Results: Sixty-five staff persons were identified as having experiencing at least one DRD on their caseload. These 65 reported a range of grief-related reactions, with the majority (88%) identifying at least one reaction. The most common feelings identified were sadness (83%), guilt (40%), and anger (37%) about the death of their client. Female staff, those with access to more sources of support, those who had a larger caseload, those with greater career experience of DRD on their caseload, and those who felt close to their client all reported significantly greater prevalence of grief-related reactions. The length of time since the DRD had occurred was also associated.
Conclusions: When a DRD occurs, staff involved in the care and treatment of the deceased need to be considered in the aftermath.