Dr Joanna Kesten, Research Fellow, Bristol Medical School, Bristol Population Health Science Institute, Health Protection Research Unit.
Professor Catriona Matheson, Professor at the University of Stirling, and Chair of the Ministerial Drug Death Task Force for Scotland.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK in early 2020, there was concern about its impact on vulnerable groups in society. In this blog, Jo Kesten, Research Fellow at the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol and Catriona Matheson, Professor at the University of Stirling and Chair of the Ministerial Drug Death Task Force for Scotland, discuss the findings and wider policy implications of two independent research projects to investigate how people who inject drugs were affected. Both studies interviewed people who use drugs in the first national lockdown in 2020 to understand how the pandemic impacted on them. In Scotland, data from online forums, surveys and the police were also used to examine changes in the drugs market.
- Service innovation can happen quickly in a crisis
- Digital inclusion is important if services are to continue with remote contact
- Many people struggled with the loss of connection with others
- There were fewer infections among interviewees than may have been predicted
- Drug markets were more resilient than we had thought
- More research needs to be carried out on changes to drug treatment medication policies as our studies recorded slightly different experiences