The Peer Research Model

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Developing the capacity of volunteers

The Scottish Drugs Forum model of User Involvement focuses particularly in developing the capacity of volunteers to undertake social/peer research.

People with a history of substance use face very significant social and cultural stigma, as well as the threat of sanctions if they reveal the true extent of their substance-related activities, patterns of use and other behaviours.



Using peer researchers encourages people who use substances to speak more freely to interviewers.  Peer researchers understand the issues that are faced by people who use substances and the latter regard peer researchers as more credible than other researchers because of their similar life experience/background.

People who use substances identify more closely with peer researchers, feel less wary of them and are more confident that they are speaking openly to people with direct knowledge and understanding of the often harsh reality of their lives.

This increased openness is essential for services to gain an accurate insight into the issues affecting people with drugs problems so services can respond to these challenges most effectively.



Scottish Drugs Forum trains volunteers in a wide variety of topics to equip them with the professional skills necessary to undertake the robust and structured research commissioned by external agencies.

Our peer research projects have been commissioned by a wide range of organisations including NHS Health Boards, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and the Social Work Inspection Agency.

Our peer researchers can undertake needs assessments and service user consultation, using a wide range of methods including individual interviews and focus groups.

Subjects include:

  • Peer Research
  • Drug Education and Needle Exchange-related issues
  • Overdose awareness/Naloxone administration
  • Overdose prevention and Naloxone Training for Trainers
  • Criminal  Justice System Overview Training
  • Communication Training
  • Presentation and Powerpoint Presentation Skills Training
  • Focus Group Training
  • Hepatitis C Awareness Training
  • Infections, Drug Use & Anthrax
  • Survey Development
  • Research methods
  • Producing Research Instruments (questionnaires, interview schedules and focus group structures)
  • Interview Skills
  • Suicide Prevention, safeTALK and ASIST Training
  • Coping techniques for dealing with difficult life history peer research



This training and work experience also helps volunteers to move onto the next stage of their recovery through developing employability skills, increased self-esteem, confidence and self-worth.