26th August 2016

The needs of older high-risk drug users are highlighted in a new report by the SCCJR’s Dr Colin Atkinson, who has reviewed the literature on service responses to this distinct group.

Dr Atkinson’s report looks at academic research from around the world, with the aim of informing planning and policy for Scotland’s older drug-using population.

The demographic of drug users in Scotland is ageing, with older people now accounting for more high-risk users and an increasing number of drug-related deaths. Against this backdrop, Dr Atkinson says there is a need to specifically design or adapt services in order to effectively engage with this population.

He found that the available research highlights how social isolation and exclusion, shame and stigma are factors that older drug-users may experience more frequently than their younger counterparts, which has implications for accessing services. The co-presence of mental and physical health problems is another potential barrier to access, along with a range of health, social, economic challenges and patterns of behaviour and coping that constitute this group as highly complex.

Dr Atkinson concludes that the available literature provides very few models of effective service responses – if any – that can be unproblematically transposed to the Scottish context in their existing form, and that further work is required to fully understand the intersecting issues of gender, geography, social class, education and other social factors that may be important in understanding the needs of this population and their engagement with treatment and service responses.

Read the full report here.

Violence, Drugs and Alcohol