Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021/22: Public Attitudes Towards People with Problem Drug Use

This report presents findings from the 2021/22 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA) conducted between the 21st of October 2021 and the 27th of March 2022. The primary aim of this report is to explore public perceptions of people with problem drug use.

This document is part of a collection


1. Area deprivation on SSA 2021/22 is measured using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2020 divided into quintiles. SIMD 2020 measures the level of deprivation across Scotland – from the least deprived to the most deprived areas. It is based on 38 indicators in seven domains of: income, employment, health, education skills and training, housing, geographic access and crime. Further details are included in the separate technical report.

2. As some of the questions in 2021/22 were repeated from previous SSA surveys, where applicable, the findings explore potential changes in attitudes since 2001 and/or 2009 towards people with problem drug use in previous years.

3. This was indicated by agreeing 'it's in all of our interests to give help and support to people with problems with drugs'; and disagreeing to individuals 'have only themselves to blame' for their problem drug use.

4. Several questions in the survey refer to individuals ceasing drug use such as "How much would you agree or disagree that most people who use heroin can never stop using drugs completely?" This is not the widely accepted definition of recovery (with there being different roads to recovery), however was used as a proxy indication to capture attitudes toward recovery that the public can consistently understand in the context of this survey. The wording mirrors questions asked in 2009 which enables change over time to be assessed.



7. Over the last 12 months.




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15. The road to recovery: a new approach to tackling Scotland's drug problem - (



18. Rights, respect and recovery: alcohol and drug treatment strategy - (


20. National mission - Alcohol and drugs - (






26. This includes empty / derelict addresses, buildings under construction, holiday homes, businesses, other non-residential (such as schools, offices and institutions), and addresses that had been demolished. Based on other similar surveys it was assumed that 10% of addresses would fall into this category.

27. This can be found with the accompanying documents to this publication

28. A total of 6 questions were included in relation to these other public health areas (alcohol, tobacco use and obesity). The findings of the questions asked regarding attitudes relating to these areas are to be presented in a separate Scottish Government publication.

29. Most of these questions remained the same as in previous years whilst for a few the wording had been slightly adapted as noted within the report. As noted in the Survey Methodology and Technical Report the change in survey mode brings a risk that differences in attitudes between SSA 2021/22 and earlier years may be, at least in part, due to the change of methodology. However, the sampling approach has remained comparable with previous years and the 2021/22 data have been carefully weighted to try and ensure that this risk has been minimised.

30. ScotCen Panel members are recruited from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) which interviews those aged 16 and over across Scotland (including the Highlands and Islands). Those interviewed as part of SSA in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 were asked to join the Panel at the end of the SSA interview. Further information on the sample is included in SSA 2021-22 Public attitudes towards people with drug use - Technical Report.

31. See SSA 2021-22 Public attitudes towards people with problem drug use - Technical Report for details of the background analysis variables. Where appropriate descriptions of these are appended as footnotes within this report.

32. The percentages for some of the single categories shown in this figure may, because of rounding, differ by one percentage point from the sum of the percentages given within the text in the table. See 'Analysis' on page 11 for more detail.

33. Although in 2009 this statement was worded slightly differently ('Most heroin users come from difficult backgrounds'), these items are considered similar enough to remain comparable.

34. In 2009 SSA carried the following question which, while similar in substance, is not directly comparable to our 2021 item due to notable differences in question wording: 'Most people who end up addicted to heroin only have themselves to blame'. In 2009, 15% agreed strongly with this statement, 29% agreed, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed', 22% disagreed, and 6% disagreed strongly. Unlike the other questions from 2009 presented in this report this question was asked in a paper self-completion form which could be completed privately rather than interviewer-led which could also affect comparability to 2021.

35. 'Agree' for these analytical variables combines those who strongly agreed and agreed when referenced throughout the report

36. 'Disagree' for these analytical variables combines those who strongly disagreed and disagreed when referenced throughout the report

37. In 2009 SSA did carry the following question on attitudes towards working with a colleague who is getting help to stop using heroin. However, while similar in substance, it is not directly comparable to our 2021 item due to differences in routing (only asked of those who are currently working in 2009 and asked of all in 2021) and notable differences in question wording: 'Say you heard that you would be working with someone you knew had used heroin in the past. How comfortable or uncomfortable do you think you would feel about this?' In 2009, 9% indicted they would feel 'very comfortable' working with someone who had used heroin in the past, 38% selected 'fairly comfortable', 32% stated that they would be 'neither comfortable nor uncomfortable', 15% suggested they would feel 'fairly uncomfortable', and 4% asserted they would be 'very uncomfortable'.

38. Whilst abstinence is not the widely accepted definition of recovery from drug use (with there being different roads to recovery), this was considered a proxy indication of a form of recovery that the public can easily and consistently understand in the context of this survey. Also, the wording mirrors questions was asked in 2009 and the aim was to explore change over time.



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