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Public Attitudes to Drugs and Drug Use in Scotland

Author: Rachel Ormston

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Summary

This report presents findings from the 2009 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) on public attitudes towards illegal drugs and drug misuse in Scotland. The questions were funded by the Scottish Government’s Police and Community Safety Directorate, and aimed to explore changes in public opinion since SSA last covered attitudes to drugs in 2001. In addition, the survey also included new questions about drug misuse and drug policy in Scotland, in light of the Scottish Government’s recovery-focused drugs strategy adopted in 2008. The report focuses in particular on attitudes towards opiate misuse and on views of potential policy responses to this. However, it also places such attitudes in the context of wider views and experiences of illegal drugs.

Introduction

This report presents findings from a series of questions in the 2009 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA), commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Police and Community Safety Directorate, looking at public attitudes towards illegal drugs and drug misuse in Scotland. In particular, it focuses on attitudes towards policies for dealing with opiate misuse and addiction. However, it also places such attitudes in the context of wider views and experiences of illegal drugs.

Drug use has long been a matter of public concern and debate, not least because of its negative and often tragic associations and the high profile media coverage of drug-related issues. But, although there have been occasional surveys of public attitudes towards drug use, the last significant examination of such issues in Scotland was undertaken some time ago (Gannon, McKeganey, Hay and Hinds, 2003). With the adoption of a new drugs strategy by the Scottish Government in 2008, this represents a particularly appropriate juncture at which to revisit public opinion towards drug misuse in Scotland and explore the extent to which drugs policy as defined by the new strategy is in line with prevailing public attitudes.