SDF study benchmarks progress towards MAT implementation

26th October 2021

The living experience of people in medication assisted treatment (MAT) has been surveyed by a team of thirteen researchers at Scottish Drugs Forum.  The researchers all have their own lived experience of problem substance use and six are currently in medication assisted treatment. This peer approach means that people interviewed for this study were able to give full and frank answer to questions about accessing MAT; the relationship they have with the service as indicated by, among other things, their access to informed choice of medication and dose; assistance they have sought and received.

The fieldwork was undertaken with 95 people in MAT in Ayrshire and Arran, Grampian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, and Tayside health board areas as well as 16 participants from Perth Prison. Participants were between 24 and 64 years old.

The report’s findings, which were previewed at a webinar on Friday 8 October, describe some of the issues people in treatment have faced in terms of accessing their services and being supported and empowered in treatment.


Key findings include –

  • People who had a history of engaging with treatment feel that access has improved as waiting times have reduced. This reduction from months to weeks is welcome but waiting periods are still too long.
  • While some participants reported there is more choice of medication, it is not felt decisions around choice and dose are always shared decisions between the person and the prescriber.
  • When it occurs, staff taking time and explaining and encouraging discussion around dose and choice of medication promotes engagement, increased wellbeing, and satisfaction with treatment.
  • The majority of participants feel they need additional support with their mental health.


Joan Walsh, Development Officer, who co-ordinated the study and developed the report says “This research was undertaken during lockdown and there were logistical challenges in organising and doing the interviews. The efforts of the peer researchers to deliver this report are greatly appreciated by the SDF staff team and, I am sure, the wider by the audience for this report – the people designing, commissioning, managing and delivering MAT and support services.”

David Liddell, CEO, says “The report gives a real insight into the experience of people using services – issues with choice and the power imbalance with services and some staff but also there is learning about what people want – to be treated decently and with humanity, to feel empowered to make choices and decisions and to gain control of their lives.

“If we are to ensure that everyone who can benefit from treatment can get into treatment we need to ensure we listen to people using services and what they find promotes well-being and what does not.”

Click here to read the report

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