Why are drug-related deaths among women increasing in Scotland? - full report

A scoping project examining potential explanations for the disproportionate rise in drug-related deaths among women.

Appendix 3: Example topic guide for interview

Introductory briefing:

The Scottish Government Substance Misuse Unit are currently undertaking a rapid scoping project regarding the rise in drug-related deaths amongst women in Scotland over recent years.

As you may already be aware, although men still account for the majority of DRDs, the number of deaths among women have increased to a greater extent in recent years than deaths among men.

For instance, annual average number of deaths increased 169% among women between 2002-2006 and 2012-2016, compared to a 60% increase among men.

As part of the information gathering for this project, we are aiming to seek insights into possible explanations for this trend from key professional stakeholders – hence this conversation.

At this stage, this project is primarily for internal information gathering purposes, though there is a possibility that the findings from the project may be included in future Scottish Government publications. The conversations will not be audio-recorded but notes will be taken.

  • check content to proceed

What is your preference as to how your input will be used?

  • Named attribution of any direct quotations
  • General attribution of any direct quotations to your professional group
  • Informing the synthesis with no direct quotations.


Could you describe your role within your organisation?

Understanding gender aspects of drug-related deaths:

In the context of the overall rise in DRDs, are there any factors that you think might be particularly contributing to a greater rise in DRDs among women in recent years?

Do you think there are particular/distinct circumstances that have led to the rise in reported female DRDs?

In your experience, what are the gender specific risks that can lead to DRDs?

Aim to discuss the following hypotheses with stakeholder during the course of the conversation, with a focus on changes in recent years that might explain the trend observed:

  • Patterns of drug use amongst women, including role of prescribed drugs
  • Potential physiological differences affecting dependence and relapse
  • Engagement with services
  • Role of parenthood e.g. child protection concerns, child care
  • Relationships and gender-based violence affecting engagement with services and/or patterns of substance use
  • Differences in social support and networks, including stigma
  • Concurrent mental and physical health conditions ( comorbidity)
  • Wider life circumstances, including housing status and welfare benefits
  • Any other explanations not mentioned here

What changes in practice and policy do you think would help address the problems that we’ve discussed?

  • May want to revisit hypotheses above as prompts/structure

Can you provide some examples of best practice in this area (e.g. organisations, interventions etc.)?

Snowballing and follow-up

Can you recommend any other stakeholders that we should speak to?

If we have further questions during this project, would you be willing to have a follow-up conversation?


Thank stakeholder for participation

Note that we will be in touch in due course to update them on the project

Reminder of contact details if any questions


Back to top