Community pharmacy services for people with drug problems over two decades in Scotland: Implications for future development

Catriona Matheson, Manimekalai Thiruvothiyur, Helen Robertson, Christine Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: In Scotland community pharmacies are heavily involved in service delivery for people with drug problems (PWDP) as documented through surveys of all community pharmacies in 1995, 2000 and 2006. A further survey in 2014 enabled trends in service demand/provision to be analysed and provides insight into future development.

METHODS: The lead pharmacist in every Scottish pharmacy (n=1246) was invited to complete a postal questionnaire covering attitudes towards PWDP and service provision and level of involvement in services (needle exchange, dispensing for PWDP and methadone supervision). Additional questions covered new services of take-home naloxone (THN) and pharmacist prescribing for opioid dependence. Telephone follow-up of non-responders covered key variables. A comparative analysis of four cross-sectional population surveys of the community pharmacy workforce (1995, 2000, 2006 and 2014) was undertaken.

RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were returned by 709 (57%) pharmacists in 2014. Key variables (questionnaire or telephone follow-up) were available from 873 (70%). The proportion of pharmacies providing needle exchange significantly increased from 1995 to 2014 (8.6%, 9.5%, 12.2%, 17.8%, p<0.001) as did the proportion of pharmacies dispensing for the treatment of drug misuse (58.9%, 73.4%, 82.6% and 88%, p<0.001). Methadone was dispensed to 16,406 individuals and buprenorphine to 1777 individuals (increased from 12,400 and 192 respectively in 2006). Attitudes improved significantly from 1995 to 2014 (p<0.001). Being male and past training in drug misuse significantly predicted higher attitude scores (p<0.05) in all four years. Attitude score was a consistently significant predictor in all four years for dispensing for the treatment of drug misuse [OR=1.1 (1995 and 2006, CI 1.1-1.3, and 2014 CI 1.1-1.4) and 1.2 (2000), CI 1.3-1.5] and providing needle exchange [OR=1.1 (1995 and 2006), CI 1.1-1.2, 1.1-1.3 and 1.2 (2000 and 2014), CI 1.1-1.3 and 1.1-1.5]. In 2014, 53% of pharmacists felt part of the addiction team and 27.7% did not feel their role was valued by them. Nine pharmacists prescribed for opioid dependence.

CONCLUSION: It is possible for pharmacy workforce attitudes and service engagement to improve over time. Training was key to these positive trends. Communication with the wider addiction team could be further developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date27 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier B.V.

This work was funded by a research grant from Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government (CZH/4/998). The authors would like to thank them for their support. Thank you to the pharmacists who took the time to complete this questionnaire and to Aileen Bryson, RPS Scotland and all the Specialist Pharmacists in Substance Misuse who encouraged local pharmacists to participate.


  • pharmacy
  • attitudes
  • training
  • workforce
  • opiate replacement treatment
  • drug misuse
  • Naloxone


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