Peer-to-peer naloxone programmes have transformational potential, says SDF

Peer-to-peer naloxone programmes can help to reduce stigma and boost confidence, says a new report from the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), and if rolled out further could help to reduce Scotland’s drug-related death rate. 

Peer to Peer naloxone training at the DDN Conference. This year's event will be on 13 July in Birmingham
Peer to Peer naloxone training at the DDN Conference. This year’s event will be on 13 July in Birmingham

The document evaluates the impact of three pilot peer-to-peer programmes – one in an urban setting, one in a rural setting and one in a prison. SDF was involved in recruiting and delivering training, as well as interviewing the peers as part of the evaluation process. The peers were supported to train others and supply naloxone kits, ensuring that they had an ‘active voice’ in the sharing and promotion of good practice.  

As well as increasing naloxone supply and training the programmes displayed other ‘tangible positive outcomes’, the report states. These included developing transferable skills, increasing confidence and employment opportunities, and reducing stigma towards peers from staff. 

Among the document’s recommendations, however, are that peers should always receive proper payment for their work and that services should be fully prepared in advance in order to increase inclusion and set expectations. ‘All peer workers involved in projects of this kind, including those within prison settings, must be paid fairly for their time,’ the report states. ‘This will allow the role to be recognised as important work and ensure peers are valued.’ Staff also need to be aware of how sessional or part-time employment can affect peers’ benefits, adding that ‘when peers apply and become involved with this work, clear expectations about the role and its parameters and related processes must be explained to them, such as the need for ID and how long PVG/background checks may take.’

‘With sufficient staff time and resource, including payment for peers, and awareness of logistical and practical challenges, there are no reasons why this approach could not be continued in these areas and rolled out in others effectively,’ says SDF. ‘There should be a confident assumption that this would contribute even further to the reduction of drug-related deaths in Scotland due to increased naloxone supply and broader efforts for peer inclusion.’

‘This report clearly shows the power of peer involvement, not only on increasing distribution of naloxone and saving lives, but on changing attitudes and approaches to work in the field,’ said research and peer engagement senior officer at SDF Samantha Stewart. ‘The evaluation demonstrates that including peers and treating and paying them equally should be a non-negotiable in this and other types of work across the service landscape.’

Peer naloxone supply project: an evaluation of three pilot areas available at

See the May issue of DDN for an interview with outgoing SDF chief executive David Liddell 

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