Public attitudes towards drug misuse and drug treatment strategies

Public attitudes towards drug misuse and drug treatment strategies

Research evidence is strong for opiate replacement treatment (ORT), and current policy is moving from harm reduction to rehabilitation. However, public opinion (attitudes) can be at odds with evidence. This study explored the relationships between attitudes, knowledge of drugs and a range of socio-demographic variables that potentially influence attitude. Values were elicited using willingness to pay (WTP).

The response rate was 38.1% (1,067/2,803). Less than 10% had personal experience of drug misuse but 16.7% had experience of drug misuse via a friend/acquaintance. Regression modelling revealed more positive attitudes towards drug users in those with personal experience of drug misuse, (p < 0.001), better knowledge of drugs (p = 0.001) and higher income (those earning >£50,000 per annum compared to <£15K; p = 0.01). Over half of respondents were not willing to pay anything for drug treatment, indicating they did not value these treatments. Respondents were willing to pay most for community rehabilitation and least for methadone maintenance treatment. Qualitative analysis of open responses indicated strong negative attitudes, doubts over the efficacy of methadone and consideration of addiction as self-inflicted. There was ambivalence with respondents weighing up negative feelings towards treatment against societal benefit.

Outcome and Translation

There is a gap between public attitudes and evidence regarding drug treatment. Findings suggest a way forward might be to develop and evaluate treatment that integrates ORT with a community rehabilitative approach. Evaluation of public engagement/education to improve knowledge of drug treatment effectiveness is recommended.

HERU researchers involved in this research project: Mandy Ryan

External collaborators: C Bond, M Jaffrey and C Mathieson (Academic Primary Care, University of Aberdeen)

Publications

Matheson, C., Jaffray, M., Bond, C., Ryan, M., Liddell, D. and Clarke, A. (2011) Attitudes, knowledge and experience of the general public towards drug misuse and drug treatment strategies. Final Report prepared for the Chief Scientist Office: Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (CSO).

Matheson, C., Jaffray, M., Ryan, M., Bond, C. M., Fraser, K., Kirk, M. and Liddell, D. (2014) 'Public opinion of drug treatment policy: exploring the public's attitudes, knowledge, experience and willingness to pay for drug treatment strategies', International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(3), 407-415.

Presentations

Matheson, C., Jaffray, M., Ryan, M., Liddell, D., Bond, C. and Fraser, K. (2011) 'Attitudes, knowledge and experience of the general public towards drug misuse and drug treatment strategies', Society for the Study of Addiction, York, November 2011.

Matheson, C., Jaffray, M., Ryan, M., Liddell, D., Bond, C. and Fraser, K. (2012) 'Attitudes, knowledge and experience of the general public towards drug misuse and drug treatment strategies', Society for Academic Primary Care, Glasgow, April 2012.