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Article
Publication date: 7 January 2019

Iain McPhee, Chris Holligan, Robert McLean and Ross Deuchar

The purpose of this paper is to explore the hidden social worlds of competent clandestine users of drugs controlled within the confines of the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the hidden social worlds of competent clandestine users of drugs controlled within the confines of the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which now includes NPS substances. The authors explore how and in what way socially competent drug users differ from others who are visible to the authorities as criminals by criminal justice bureaucracies and known to treatment agencies as defined problem drug users.

Design/methodology/approach

This qualitative research utilises a bricoleur ethnographic methodology considered as a critical, multi-perspectival, multi-theoretical and multi-methodological approach to inquiry.

Findings

This paper challenges addiction discourses and, drawing upon empirical evidence, argues the user of controlled drugs should not be homogenised. Using several key strategies of identity management, drug takers employ a range of risk awareness and risk neutralisation techniques to protect self-esteem, avoid social affronts and in maintaining untainted identities. The authors present illicit drug use as one activity amongst other social activities that (some) people, conventionally, pursue. The findings from this study suggest that punitive drug policy, which links drug use with addiction, crime and antisocial behaviour, is inconsistent with the experience of the participants.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the small sample size (n=24) employed, the possibility that findings can be generalised is rendered difficult. However, generalisation was never an objective of the research; the experiences of this hidden population are deeply subjective and generalising findings and applying them to other populations would be an unproductive endeavour. While the research attempted to recruit an equal number of males and females to this research, gendered analysis was not a primary objective of this research. However, it is acknowledged that future research would greatly benefit from such a gendered focus.

Practical implications

The insights from the study may be useful in helping to inform future policy discourse on issues of drug use. In particular, the insights suggest that a more nuanced perspective should be adopted. This perspective should recognise the non-deviant identities of many drug users in the contemporary era, and challenge the use of a universally stigmatising discourse and dominance of prohibition narratives.

Social implications

It is envisaged that this paper will contribute to knowledge on how socially competent users of controlled drugs identify and manage the risks of moral, medical and legal censure.

Originality/value

The evidence in this paper indicates that drug use is an activity often associated with non-deviant, productive members of the population. However, the continuing dominance of stigmatising policy discourses often leads to drug users engaging in identity concealment within the context of a deeply capitalist Western landscape.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 19 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 December 2020

Iain McPhee and Barry Sheridan

In response to Scottish Government assertions that an ageing cohort explained increases in drug-related death (DRD), the previous research by the authors established that…

Abstract

Purpose

In response to Scottish Government assertions that an ageing cohort explained increases in drug-related death (DRD), the previous research by the authors established that socio-economic inequalities were additional risk factors explaining the significant increases in DRD in Scotland. This paper aims to subject the drug policy narratives provided by Scottish Government in relation to the governance of drug and alcohol services to critical scrutiny and reveal the social consequences of the funding formula used to direct funding to services via NHS Scotland Boards, and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADP).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides a narrative review in the context of the AUDIT Scotland reports “Drug and Alcohol Services in Scotland” from 2009 and follow-up report published in 2019. The authors refer to the recommendations made in the 2009 report on effectiveness of drug and alcohol services and subject Scottish Government funding processes, and governance of drug and alcohol services to critical scrutiny.

Findings

This analysis provides robust evidence that Scottish Government funding processes and governance of drug and alcohol services increased risk to vulnerable drug users and document evidence that link these risk factors to increased DRD.

Research limitations/implications

The authors have focused on Scottish drug policy and drug services funding. Alcohol services funding is not subject to critical analysis due to limitations of time and resources.

Practical implications

This case study investigates AUDIT Scotland’s recommendations in 2009 to Scottish Government to provide researchers, government policy advisors and media with robust critical analysis that links drug policy decisions to increased DRD.

Social implications

Drug policy governance by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland since 2009 have disproportionately affected communities of interest and communities of place already experiencing stark inequalities. These budget decisions have resulted in widening inequalities, and increased DRD within communities in Scotland. The authors conclude that in diverging politically and ideologically from Public Health England, and the Westminster Parliament, Scottish Government drug policy and financial governance of drugs services contributes to increased risk factors explaining DRD within deprived communities.

Originality/value

The 2009 AUDIT Scotland recommendations to Scottish Government subject their governance of drug services to critical scrutiny. This analysis provides a counterpoint to the explanations that rising DRD are unconnected to drug policy and drug services governance.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 20 April 2022

Iain McPhee, Barry Sheridan, Andrew Horne, Steph Keenan and Fiona Houston

This study aims to provide data on substance use amongst young people in Scotland to inform policy and practice for an age group who generally do not access specialist…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to provide data on substance use amongst young people in Scotland to inform policy and practice for an age group who generally do not access specialist alcohol and drug services. The main objectives of the study were to assess the problem severity scores of items from a modified version of the DAST-10 brief screening instrument among respondents; examine correlations between a range of variables in relation to DAST-10 problem severity scores; and explore respondent knowledge of how and where to seek help.

Design/methodology/approach

A fixed quantitative design methodology recruited a non-probability sample of 4,501 respondents from an online survey made available by “We are With you” Scotland.

The survey was ethically approved by the School of Education and Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland. It consisted of 32 questions exploring substances used within the past 12 months, and 12 weeks, and included the DAST-10. We further explored help seeking, and knowledge of support available to respondents.

Findings

Substance use patterns were markedly different from people currently known to specialist alcohol and drug services. Over half of respondents were under 25, and 62% report being employed. The most commonly used substances were cannabis and cocaine. One third of respondents recorded substantial or severe problem severity scores and reside in Scottish Local Authorities with high concentrations of socio-economic inequality.

Secure accommodation, stable relationships and being employed are protective factors in relation to reported negative health consequences associated with problem substance use.

Just under one third (27%) of respondents report knowing where to seek help for substance use problems; however, they are unwilling to attend existing specialist alcohol and drug services.

Research limitations/implications

A non-probability sample of the Scottish population has a potential for response bias due to how and what way the survey was made available to respondents. It is acknowledged that while useful as a method of generating drug use data, there are limitations in how recently the substance use occurred, and in relation to the types of substances reported (cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy).

Practical implications

The study provides data to inform wider public health measures in relation to accessing support and addressing societal discrimination associated with the use of substances. The study provides data on service design for young people who do not access specialist alcohol and drug services.

Social implications

The study informs substance use policy in the Scottish context in relation to a population of young people who use licit and illicit substances. Data contributes to evidence supporting correlations between problematic substance use and socio-economic inequality. Data indicates that existing specialist services require redesign.

Originality/value

The study is the first to be conducted within a Scottish context.

Details

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, vol. 23 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2752-6739

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 December 2018

Iain McPhee, Barry Sheridan and Steve O’Rawe

The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons and risk factors that explain the threefold increase in drug-related deaths from 267 in 1996 to 934 in 2017 in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons and risk factors that explain the threefold increase in drug-related deaths from 267 in 1996 to 934 in 2017 in Scotland. The authors explore the known links between deprivation and problem drug use (PDU) and discuss the impact of drug policy and service provision on PDU and drug-related deaths.

Design/methodology/approach

Using quantitative data sets from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) for drug-related deaths registered in 2017 and data sets from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), we produce statistical data on mortality rates relating to areas of deprivation, gender and age.

Findings

The data highlight the disproportionate number of deaths in the most deprived areas in comparison to the least deprived areas and the national average. Findings indicate that one quarter of male and female DRD in 2017 were under 35. When examining the least deprived vingtile, drug-related deaths account for 2.84 per 100,000 population. Based on this mortality rate calculation, the amount of drug-related deaths are 23 times higher in the most deprived area than the least deprived area.

Research limitations/implications

The research design uses data obtained from the NRS and data from Scottish Multiple Index of Deprivation. Due to the limitations of available data, the research design focused on SIMD population vingtiles.

Practical implications

This research contributes to making unarguable links between entrenched structural inequality and increased drug-related death.

Social implications

This paper contributes to knowledge on the need for drug policy advisors to recognise the importance of deprivation that plays a major part in risks of problematic drug use and harms.

Originality/value

While several national data sets have published information by SIMD vingtile, no published research has sought to investigate the disproportionate number of deaths by population in the most deprived areas.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 19 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 April 2018

Iain McPhee and Maria Eugenia Witzler D’Esposito

This study recruited students who struggled to meet institutional deadlines for summative assessments. Increasing the number of diverse and non-traditional students in…

Abstract

Purpose

This study recruited students who struggled to meet institutional deadlines for summative assessments. Increasing the number of diverse and non-traditional students in higher education (HE) institutions presents challenges in learning and teaching in online, conventional and hybrid contexts, impacting on student academic success. The purpose of this paper is to expand our understanding of student perceptions of the factors involved in academic achievement.

Design/methodology/approach

Using qualitative methods and in-depth semi-structured interviews, 14 participants were interviewed. Using Freire’s concept of empowerment, and Bordieu’s concept of habitus, the authors explore student perceptions of assessment.

Findings

Results presented thematically indicate that student perceptions of the purpose of the assessment and academic qualification are at odds with institutional habitus. Several embargoes impacting on academic achievement were revealed.

Research limitations/implications

Shifting organisational patterns and modes of production within HE institutions have influenced the student experience of academic writing and assessment. Findings highlight the factors that impact on academic success in HE institutions for non-traditional students in particular. Social class and educational background (habitus) are not factors taken into account when students are assessed. This impacts on capacity to achieve academic success.

Practical implications

The paper includes implications for curriculum designers, and self-reflective practitioners on issues related to academic success for non-traditional students.

Social implications

The study uses two case studies from two countries, Scotland and Brazil, both countries have invested heavily to address the twenty-first century learning agenda. Issues of widening access have increased student diversity, however, embargoes on academic achievement remain powerful factors that require further discussion and study.

Originality/value

This paper fulfils an identified need to study how issues of widening access can be mitigated, in particular for non-traditional students.

Details

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, vol. 10 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2050-7003

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 22 June 2009

Iain McPhee, Tim Duffy and Colin Martin

This study explored the perspectives of low‐level drug market users on the availability, purchase and consumption of illicit drugs within the social context of drug…

Abstract

This study explored the perspectives of low‐level drug market users on the availability, purchase and consumption of illicit drugs within the social context of drug prohibition. A snowballing technique was used to recruit 16 participants consisting of nine males and seven females aged between 17 and 43. A semi‐structured interview process elicited their views on their use of drugs, where they obtained them, their views on the impact of the criminal justice system on their drug use and finally their views on how drug users were perceived by non‐drug users. While some negative consequences of using drugs were reported, no participant considered that their use of drugs made them an addict, a criminal or antisocial. The findings from this study suggest that current punitive drug policy, which links drug use with addiction, crime and antisocial behaviour was inconsistent with the experience of the participants.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 9 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 22 June 2012

Iain McPhee and Tor Söderström

The purpose of this paper is to discuss performance in postgraduate education in Sweden and Scotland. Drawing on two cases, the paper considers three themes: differences…

3003

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss performance in postgraduate education in Sweden and Scotland. Drawing on two cases, the paper considers three themes: differences in students’ performance by study mode, differences in students’ performance by length of study, and finally comparing performance by study mode between modules in Scotland with an entire programme in Sweden.

Design/methodology/approach

The empirical setting from Scotland builds on an evaluation of online and on‐campus study groups with exactly the same module syllabus. The Swedish setting is also based on an evaluation of distance and on‐campus study groups with exactly the same module syllabus. The data compiled in both countries arise from student performance scores and grades.

Findings

The results indicate that students in both countries foremost use the virtual learning environment (VLE) as a forum for accessing information, to access asynchronous postings in the forums and access streaming‐synchronous online lectures which are also accessed asynchronously in the VLE. The results show that there are no differences between the grades or test scores between campus students with face‐to‐face education and distance students with electronically (VLE) mediated education. These differences and similarities will form the basis of these reflections in this paper.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited because the examples given are only a few cases and small samples and there is a need to more rigorously investigate different educational programs in different academic disciplines.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to quality issues in distance, online and campus education by taking into account, in the first case, different student performance in the same course over a longer period and in the second case, changes over time within the same educational program.

Details

Campus-Wide Information Systems, vol. 29 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1065-0741

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 8 June 2015

Iain McPhee and Denice Fenton

There is limited research documenting recovery experiences of residential service users. The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions service users on methadone…

Abstract

Purpose

There is limited research documenting recovery experiences of residential service users. The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions service users on methadone have about recovery. In depth, semi structured 1-1 interviews with seven poly drug using homeless males between the ages of 37 and 46 and analysed using NVivo software. Results are presented thematically. Participants conform to “recovery” norms allowing stigma and shame of illicit drug use to be attributed to former addict identities. Participants on methadone maintenance report inner conflict arising from changing societal and cultural norms that equate recovery with abstinence. Tensions were revealed in true motivations for active rather than passive participation in adopting group work norms.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative design utilises small numbers of participants to gather rich data. In depth, semi structured 1-1 interviews conducted with seven poly drug using homeless males who have completed between ten and 15 weeks of a minimum 26-week residential treatment programme. Participants were aged 37-46. Results were analysed thematically using NVivo software.

Findings

Participants conform to “recovery” norms allowing stigma and shame of illicit drug use to be attributed to a former stigmatised addict identity. Participants on methadone maintenance report inner conflict arising from changing societal and cultural norms regards recovery and abstinence. A significant process of recovery involved adopting the norms of 12-step groups and TC therapy to gain enough trust to leave the therapeutic community (TC) unsupervised. This created tension regards motivation, were these individuals in recovery, or merely “faking it”?

Research limitations/implications

A female perspective may have provided a more balanced discussion and yielded greater depth in results. Only one service was studied and the findings may be specific to that cohort. The duration of stay at the service of ten to 15 weeks is a relatively short time and excluded participants resident for six months or more. Longer term residents may have been more reflective and informative.

Practical implications

Encourage active options and increased debate on the variety of treatment options available to long term homeless opiate users who have failed to comply with previous treatments. While this is a small modest study, the rich data yields practical advice for policy makers and service providers.

Social implications

This research study adds to an informed perspective by encouraging debate on methadone as a challenge to definitions of recovery that infer abstinence as a key definition of success.

Originality/value

There is a paucity of research documenting a Scottish TC service user perspective using qualitative methods on experiences of addiction, treatment and recovery.

Details

Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities, vol. 36 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0964-1866

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 September 2012

Iain McPhee, Colin R. Martin and Anthony Sneider

This paper aims to critically explore the consequences of how Scotland interprets the UK Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Scotland prosecutes 24 per cent of people found in…

400

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to critically explore the consequences of how Scotland interprets the UK Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Scotland prosecutes 24 per cent of people found in possession of illegal drugs for drug “dealing” compared to less than 15 per cent in England and Wales and less than 16 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides a narrative review in the context of the background of the economic and social costs of illegal drugs in Scotland and compares this with the UK and Northern Ireland.

Findings

The explanation for such a wide disparity in numbers of dealers between these countries proposed is that the Scottish Police force is comparatively more successful at persuading courts that small quantities of drugs rather than for personal use are in fact for onward sale or supply to others.

Practical implications

The police in Scotland have a network of specialist drug units in which officers make decisions in the absence of benchmarks against which to judge quantities of repossessed drugs. Taking this approach, a devolved Scotland's commitment to drug prohibition has resulted in some very curious differences in classifications of prosecutions compared to other countries.

Originality/value

The paper explores the consequences of how Scotland deals with the use of illegal drugs and the economic and social costs.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 March 2012

Iain McPhee, Tim Duffy and Colin R. Martin

Shaw et al. identified the need for alcohol counsellors to have “therapeutic commitment” when working with clients or patients with alcohol problems. Studies building on…

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Abstract

Purpose

Shaw et al. identified the need for alcohol counsellors to have “therapeutic commitment” when working with clients or patients with alcohol problems. Studies building on this work have focussed on how such commitment can be increased. In addition, as helping agencies have increasingly offered support services to people with drug related problems, attention has also been given to staff “therapeutic commitment” when working with both alcohol and drug using populations. This study aims to report on the evaluation of the impact of an alcohol and drugs awareness training programme which was provided for personal advisors (PAs) for young vulnerable people based in a government funded criminal justice project in London.

Design/methodology/approach

A three‐day alcohol and drug awareness programme was provided for 38 personal advisors. Participants completed an adapted version of the alcohol and alcohol problems perception questionnaire (AAPPQ) assessment instrument, previously developed by Shaw et al., immediately before and then again three weeks after the programme ended. This self‐completion instrument is designed to measure the alcohol and drugs knowledge, attitudes and confidence of the PAs in working with service users experiencing alcohol and drug related difficulties. Components of the AAPPQ are specifically designed to assess staff in relation to their role legitimacy, role adequacy, role support, and role satisfaction. In total, 38 participants completed the AAPPQ at Time 1. However, AAPPQ data for the pre‐and post training programme were only obtained for 16. Time 1 and Time 2 responses for these 16 were entered into SPSS and analysed using five‐paired samples t‐tests.

Findings

Participants significantly improved their attitudes to working with, and having confidence in the engagement of young people with alcohol and drug problems. Positive changes were also observed in relation to participants' role legitimacy, role adequacy, role support, and role satisfaction. A positive but non‐significant change in participant motivation was identified.

Originality/value

Alcohol and drugs awareness training programmes have a demonstrable and positive impact on the confidence, perceived role, and confidence of personal advisors working with service users with addiction issues.

Details

Drugs and Alcohol Today, vol. 12 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1745-9265

Keywords

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