New research into drug use

September 26, 2014

Two Criminology professors at the University of South Wales have published research into the effects of drug use on people in Wales.

Professor Fiona Brookman, Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology at the University, and Professor Katy Holloway, Award Leader for Criminology and Criminal Justice, have led groundbreaking new research projects into drug use.

Prof Brookman was commissioned by South Wales Police to carry out research into possible links between mephedrone use and violence, while Prof Holloway and her colleagues Professor Trevor Bennett and Jason Edwards, studied the prevalence of non fatal overdoses among drug users in Wales. Both projects were funded by the Welsh Government in order to determine the most appropriate recommendations for public bodies and charities to consider in their treatment of drug users.

In the mephedrone study, Prof Brookman aimed to gather detailed insights from users and practitioners into the contributory role that mephedrone plays in acquisitive and violent crime, and to unravel the impacts of mephedrone on the health and wellbeing of users. She also wished to gain a reasonably broad overview of patterns of use, impacts and cessations strategies.

The research combined data from a survey of 67 users across South Wales with in-depth semi structured interviews with 12 mephedrone users and 20 expert practitioners who work with users, in order to further unravel the various impacts of mephedrone and, specifically, its links to violence.

Her key findings from the survey of mephedrone users were that almost three quarters of them reported regular use – that is, using the drug daily, every other day, or weekly. More than 80% of the users combined mephedrone with other drugs, such as alcohol, cannabis and heroin, and over half also reported ingesting a range of drugs to try to alleviate the debilitating withdrawal impacts of mephedrone. Just over 40% reported acting violently while under the influence of mephedrone, including half of the 18 women who took part in the survey.

Speaking about the conclusions drawn from her research, Professor Brookman said: “Mephedrone is a highly addictive substance and many of those who use it experience intense cravings that lead to ‘fiending’, soaring costs and a host of additional physical, emotional and social impacts. “The most effective way to try to tackle the known harms associated with this drug is to try to prevent use in the first instance but, where this fails, to provide a quick and effective network of services to support abstinence.”
Prof Holloway’s survey into opiate users

In the non-fatal overdose survey, Prof Holloway carried out a unique national survey exploring how many opiate users experience a non fatal overdose each year, the causes of non fatal overdoses and how they can be prevented. The key findings of this research were that almost half (47%) of all opiate users said that they had overdosed at least once in their lives, and 15% said that they had done so in the past 12 months. There was little difference in the prevalence of non fatal overdose among male and female respondents, and no difference in the likelihood of non fatal overdose among younger and older users.

Professor Katy Holloway said: “We believe on the basis of this research that opiate users should receive more information on how to recognise early signs of an overdose in themselves as well as others, through improved training, and more attention should be paid to the less common drugs implicated in overdose, such as mephedrone, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants. “Finally, some attempt should be made to identify the purity of current street heroin and to devise an early warning system that could inform users when purity levels are unusually high.”

Tagged: Drugs Fiona Brookman