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First addictions service to be evaluated by researchers

The new £1.2m facility in Glasgow will treat patients with pharmaceutical-grade heroin.

Glasgow: Researchers will study the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service.
Glasgow: Researchers will study the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service. Glasgow City Council

University researchers are to evaluate Scotland's first addictions service, which will start treating patients with pharmaceutical-grade heroin in Glasgow city centre in the coming weeks.

The new £1.2m facility housing the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service is licensed by the Home Office and will run alongside existing homelessness health services in the city.

It will be open between 9am and 5pm each day.

A team from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) - working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, King's College London and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow - has been awarded £291,000 to carry out the study.

Dr Andrew McAuley, senior research fellow in the School of Health and Life Sciences at GCU and principal investigator on the heroin-assisted treatment study, said: "The research is an evaluation of how the heroin-assisted treatment service is implemented within the Glasgow context of widespread polydrug use, epidemic levels of drug-related deaths and an ongoing outbreak of HIV among people who inject drugs.

"There is already a strong body of evidence to show that heroin-assisted treatment as an intervention is effective within a controlled research environment.

"However, little is known about how best to implement heroin-assisted treatment in the real world so we are conducting what we call an implementation science evaluation, which tries to understand how the service works, for whom, when and why."

He added: "It involves an in-depth exploration of the experience of the people involved in the service including patients, the staff delivering the service and wider stakeholders that the service is likely to impact on including the police, social work, housing and homelessness services.

"Ultimately, our aim of this evaluation is to understand how it's implemented in Glasgow and to shape the development of that service moving forward.

"We also aim to create good practice guidance so that other areas in the UK and other parts of the world looking to implement this type of service can learn from the experiences in Glasgow and implement their own service effectively."

A specialist team at the centre will be supported by other health and social care services, with patients requiring to be committed to the treatment and having to attend twice a day, seven days a week.

On top of treatment for their physical health - including infections, wounds or abscesses - patients will receive a holistic assessment of their social, legal and psychological needs.

The injectable opiate, or heroin-assisted, treatment will only be available to patients already involved with Glasgow's Homeless Addiction Team.

Susanne Millar, chairwoman of Glasgow's Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said: "Independent evaluation of Glasgow's new Enhanced Drug Treatment Service is critical for us and will provide us with key information and analysis which will inform treatment strategies going forward.

"Sadly, the rise in drug-related deaths is a nationwide issue and Glasgow's facility is the first of its kind in Scotland so the evaluation by Glasgow Caledonian University will also be of interest to other cities who are considering how to best save lives and tackle this national public health emergency."

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