Premature mortality in Scottish injecting drug users: a life-history approach

L Copeland, Roy Robertson, J McKenzie, J Kimber, J Macleod, M Hickman, D de Angelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Scotland, deaths in drug users are known to be higher than in the rest of the UK and most of Europe. Reducing drug-related deaths is currently a national priority for the Scottish Government.  This study aimed to present a description of the life histories of a group of injecting drug users who have recently died, with a view to highlighting areas for further research. The Edinburgh Addiction Cohort study recently carried out 432 follow-up interviews between the years 2005 and 2007. Thirty-three cases who completed this extensive interview detailing early life, education, employment, drug use, opiate substitution treatment, criminal history, mental health problems and overdose have subsequently died, leaving this source of rich information about their lives. The design of the interview used the life grid approach. Information was also compiled from full primary care records and General Register Office death certificates. Early life adversity was apparent for many cases, with a steady progression into early criminal behaviour and drug misuse. Poor adult life outcomes illustrated the lifelong damaging effects of drug injecting. Death occurred significantly earlier than in the general population or those living in deprived communities who did not use drugs. In conclusion, a clearer understanding of the life histories of problem drug users would be advantageous for health-care professionals and policy-makers. More qualitative research studies are needed to highlight areas which might require early intervention and also complement the existing secondary data studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-42
Number of pages5
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2012


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