University of Stirling Drugs Research Network Scotland
Catriona Matheson is a former trustee and treasurer of the Society for the Study of Addiction. Her research interests are in the delivery of care to substance users. Past research includes exploring new services in primary care (e.g. naloxone distribution) and exploring health professional and the general public’s opinions about drug treatment strategies. Current work includes developing and testing complex interventions for older drug users ORT patients, and managing dependence on prescription and over the counter medicines.
Older people with drug problems in Scotland: a mixed methods study
The population of people with a drug problem is ageing and services need to adjust appropriately. This study aimed to identify health-care and social support needs of older people with a drug problem (OPDP) in Scotland.
Face-to-face interviews collected quantitative and qualitative data from a cross-sectional sample of 123 OPDP, over 35 years. Data collection was undertaken by four peer researchers in a purposive sample of non-NHS services across Scotland and covered demography, drug using history, health, service use and relative importance of different issues. Quantitative data was entered into SPSS for descriptive analysis. Thematic analysis of qualitative data was undertaken on 30 interviews, purposively selected.
Participants were 35-57 years old and 75.6% (n=93) were male. Of 123 participants 95.1% were on welfare benefits, 78.9% lived alone and 91.1% had been homeless at some time in their lives. The majority had been in treatment several times, 75.1% had overdosed at some time in their lives, 95.1% suffered from depression, 88.6% anxiety and 52.8% chronic pain. Digestive and respiratory disease were also prevalent. The majority (86.2%) would use mental health support services, and 82.9% substitute prescribing, in the future. Mental health problems was rated as the most important issue, followed by physical health problems. Qualitative data found stigma, isolation and loneliness, the need to talk and being older and wiser were recurring themes. OPDP could feel ‘ forgotten about ‘ in treatment.
This is a vulnerable, ageing cohort, at high risk of premature mortality if multi-morbidity is not addressed.