User Involvement: Our Approach

Three of our User Involvement peer research volunteers move onto our award-winning Addiction Workers Training Programme each year.

Scottish Drugs Forum has worked since the early 1990s to enable the people receiving drug services to influence how services are planned, organised and delivered.

The aim is to increase the quality and therefore the effectiveness of services – our experience tells us that:

  • Drug users, like most people, would like a greater say in the services they receive.
  • Services will be more efficient and effective if they listen to the views and expertise of their service users.
  • Service commissioners and planners will make more informed decisions if effective user involvement structures are in place.
  • User involvement groups can assist in changing public attitudes towards people who use drugs and encourage a more informed response from the general public.
  • User Involvement can be a very effective way of actively nurturing and developing the personal and vocational skills of drug users, as part of their recovery journey.

Scottish Drugs Forum can offer the following services through the volunteers in our National User Involvement Peer Research Group and expert Scottish Drugs Forum staff:

  • User Involvement Skills Training for volunteers
  • User Involvement Awareness Training for services
  • User Involvement Development Support for services/strategic planners
  • Commissions for peer research
  • Peer perspective input to events/conferences, recruitment processes and via submissions/policy papers
  • Peer Trainer input for Scottish Drugs Forum and external training events      

Scottish Drugs Forum runs a National User Involvement Peer Research Group and is currently assisting the development of user involvement locally with:

  • East Dunbartonshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership
  • East Ayrshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership
  • Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership

Peer Research Model

 Peer researchers understand drug users’ issues and drug users regards peer researchers as more credible than other researchers because of their similar life experience/background.

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

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


Using peer researchers encourages drug users to speak more freely to interviewers.  Peer researchers understand drug users’ issues and drug users regards peer researchers as more credible than other researchers because of their similar life experience/background.

Drug users 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 to 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 assessements 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


> Back to SDF Homepage