New treatment standards for drug users

Access to support the day it is asked for.

New standards for treatment for drug users will ensure everyone has access to the support which works best for them.

The 10 new standards, published today by the Drug Deaths Taskforce, will reinforce a rights-based approach for people who use drugs and the treatment they should expect, regardless of where they live.

Funding from the additional £50 million for drugs services announced by the First Minister in January will ensure that all Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) are supported by the Scottish Government to embed the standards by April 2022. They make clear that people must be able to start receiving support on the day that they ask for it and emphasise the importance of allowing people to make informed choices about the type of medication and help available to them.

These 10 standards apply to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) which is the term used to refer to the use of medication, such as opioids, together with any psychological and social support, in the treatment and care of people who experience problems with drug use.

Minister for Drug Policy Angela Constance said:

“I want to thank the Drug Deaths Taskforce for their work on developing these standards and all those who gave their views following the interim report.

“We now have a set of standards which are safe, accessible and person-centred. These will help ensure consistency of treatment across the country. Making help available and giving people an informed choice is an essential part of respecting a person’s rights and dignity. It is also an approach which is more likely to be effective and provide people with the support and treatment they need.

“We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and that is why we allocated an additional £250 million over the next five years to improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.

“These MAT standards will mean everyone with problematic drug use can access the right support for them regardless of their situation or location.”

Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce Professor Catriona Matheson said:

"The publication of the MAT Standards and the start of their implementation represents a major achievement for the Taskforce and the beginning of a new phase of our work. The Standards constitute the most significant intervention in the strategy to reduce the unacceptable level of drug related deaths. The Standards will form a critical element of the longer term, sustainable actions that will save lives, complimenting the emergency actions taken to date.

"The evidence is clear that using street drugs and not being in treatment is dangerous and life-threatening. The Taskforce wants more people at risk to be in treatment programmes. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the rapid development of the Standards and who are now involved in their roll-out and adoption. Commitment like this will help save lives."

Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell said:

“Scotland’s MAT Standards are the most significant landmark in improving Scotland’s response to problem drug use in over a decade. Implementing the standards will be the most significant development in addressing the on-going public health emergency of drug-related deaths.

“People who enter treatment are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society and often find engaging with services difficult. Services need to be more attractive, more approachable and more accessible; and reach out to people who have been in treatment but no longer are.  These standards are the basis for  making services truly person-centred. Implementing them will help services develop empowering relationships with people in treatment. Full implementation of the standards will save lives, reduce harm and transform people’s quality of life.”


Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards:

  • all people accessing services have the option to start MAT from the same day of presentation
  • all people are supported to make an informed choice on what medication to use for MAT, and the appropriate dose
  • all people at high risk of drug-related harm are proactively identified and offered support to commence, re-commence or continue MAT
  • all people are offered evidence based harm reduction at the point of MAT delivery
  • all people will receive support to remain in treatment for as long as requested
  • the system that provides MAT is psychologically and trauma informed (Tier 1); routinely delivers evidence based low intensity psychosocial interventions (Tier 2); and supports the development of social networks
  • all people have the option of MAT shared with Primary Care
  • all people have access to advocacy and support for housing, welfare and income needs
  • all people with co-occurring drug use and mental health difficulties can receive mental health care at the point of MAT delivery
  • all people receive trauma informed care

Read the full Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards for Scotland: Access, Choice, Support report


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