The DORIS Study

Drug Outcomes Research In Scotland

doris1Key Findings of the Drug Outcomes Research In Scotland (DORIS) Study (2008)

The Drug Outcome Research in Scotland Study (DORIS) findings have influenced the direction of drugs treatment policy in Scotland -and beyond – and have contributed to the debate on changing practice regarding recovery from drug misuse. Set up by Neil McKeganey and colleagues it was funded by the charitable Robertson Trust, Scotland. It formed the largest cohort study of drug users ever undertaken in Scotland.

The Drug Outcomes Research in Scotland Study (DORIS) began in 2001. Following a similar design to the National Treatment Outcome Research Study (NTORS, England) of regularly re-interviewing a cohort of drug abusers recruited from a range of drug treatment services, the study aimed to quantify the extent to which drug users in structured drug treatment were progressing in their recovery and whether drug users’ recovery was associated with specific types of treatment service.

DORIS was a follow-up study of 1033 drug users who had started a new treatment episode within a range of drug treatment agencies, including five prisons, across Scotland. The original 1033 cohort members were first interviewed in 2001/02 and then re-interviewed eight, sixteen and thirty three months later. Additional qualitative data were also collected in a range of drug treatment facilities.

The study was designed, first and foremost, to provide research evidence on the effectiveness of the different kinds of drug treatment available for Scottish problem drug users. However, it has findings that are of far wider interest. The DORIS dataset has well over a million data items within it and more than twenty reports have been published on the DORIS study (see the list below), embracing not just treatment effectiveness, but also patterns of drug use, prevalence of hepatitis C virus, criminality, mental health, risk behaviour, employment patterns and homelessness. Analyses have also been conducted on particular sub-groups of the sample such as those who underwent prison-based drug treatment, sample members with families, and sample members who died.

doris2There are numerous media reports on the study and many publications too. The research up to 2008 was summarised in an occasional paper:

Neil McKeganey, Michael Bloor, James McIntosh, Jo Neale, 2008, Key Findings from the Drug Outcomes Research in Scotland Study, Occasional Paper, University of Glasgow

The publications are listed below:

DORIS Publications


Bloor, M., Robertson, M., McKeganey, N., Neale, J. (2008) Theorising equipment-sharing in a cohort of Scottish drug users, Health, Risk & Society 10,6 599-607

• Bloor, M., Neale, J., Weir, C., Robertson, M. & McKeganey, N. (2008) Severity of drug dependence does not predict changes in drug users’ behaviour over time, Critical Public Health, 18:3, 381-389

• Bloor, M., Gannon, M., Hay, G., Jackson, G., Leyland, A., McKeganey, N. Contribution of problem drug users’ deaths to excess mortality in Scotland: secondary analysis of a cohort study (2008) British Medical Journal, 337: a478 doi:10.1136/bmj.a478

• Bloor, M., McIntosh, J., McKeganey, N., Robertson, M. ‘Topping up’ methadone: an analysis of patterns of heroin use among a treatment sample of Scottish drug users (2008) Public Health, doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2008.01.007

• McIntosh J, Bloor M, Robertson M (2008) The health benefits of reductions in individuals use of illegal drugs, Journal of Substance Use, 13: 247-254.

• McIntosh J, Bloor M, Robertson M (2008) Drug treatment and the achievement of paid employment, Addiction Research & Theory, 16: 37-45.


• McIntosh J, Bloor M, Robertson M (2007) The effect of drug treatment on the commission of acquisitive crime, Journal of Substance Use, 12: 375-384

• Neale, J., Bloor, M., McKeganey, N. (2007) How do heroin users spend their spare time? Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 14: 231-246.

• Neale, J., Robertson, M., Bloor, M., (2007) Treatment experienced and treatment naive drug agency clients compared. International Journal of Drug Policy, 18: 486-493.


• Bloor, M., Neale, J., McKeganey, N.P., (2006) Persisting local variations in prevalence of hepatitis C virus among Scottish problem drug users: results from an anonymous screening study. Drugs: education, prevention and Policy, Vol. 13, 189-191

• Kemp, P., Neale, J., Robertson. (2006) Homelessness among problem drug users: prevalence, risk factors and trigger events. Health & Social Care in the Community, 14(4), 319-328.

• McIntosh, J. and Saville, E., (2006) The challenges associated with drug treatment in prison. Probation Journal: The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice, Vol. (53(3): 230-247.

• McKeganey, N.P., Bloor, M., Robertson, M., & Neale, J. (2006) ‘Abstinence and drug abuse treatment: results from the Drug Outcome Research in Scotland study’. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, Vol. 13, Issue 6, p537-550 (December).

• Neale, J., Bloor, M., Weir, C. (2006) Problem Drug Users and Assault: Response to Galvani. International Journal of Drug Policy, Vol. 17: 250-251.

• Neale, J., Bloor, M., Berney, L., Fischer, J. (2006) The effects of User Involvement on Treatment. Druglink, 21 (1) 20-21 January/February.


• Kemp, P., Neale, J., (2005) Employability and problem drug users, Critical Social Policy, Vol. 25(1): 28-46.

• McKeganey, N., Neale, J., Robertson, M., (2005) Physical and Sexual Abuse Among Drug Users Contacting Drug Treatment Services in Scotland. Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy, Vol.12, No.3, 223-232: June 2005

• Neale, J., Bloor, M., Weir, C. (2005) Problem drug users and assault. International Journal of Drug Policy, 16: 393-402.

• Neale, J., Robertson, M., (2005) Recent life problems and non-fatal overdose amongst heroin users entering treatment, Addiction, 100(2): 168-175(8) Feb 2005.

• Neale, J., Roberston, M., Saville, E., (2005) Understanding the treatment needs of drug users in prison, Probation Journal: The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice, Vol 52(3): 243-257.


• McKeganey, N., Morris, Z., Neale, J., Robertson, M. (2004) What are Drug Users Looking for When they Contact Drug services: Abstinence or Harm Reduction. Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy, Vol 11 No 5: 423-435 October 2004

• Neale, J., (2004) Drug driving in Scotland: prevalence and correlates among drug users entering treatment, International Journal of Drug Policy 15: 27-35.

• Neale, J., (2004) Measuring the health of Scottish drug users, Health and Social Care in the Community, 12 (3) 202-211.

• Neale, J., (2004) Gender and illicit drug use, The British Journal of Social Work, 34: 851-870.

• Neale, J., Saville, E., (2004) Comparing community and prison-based drug treatments, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, Vol 11, No. 3, 213-228, June 2004.

• Neale, J., Robertson, M., (2004) Recent cocaine and crack use amongst new drug treatment clients in Scotland. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy 11 (1) 79-90.


• Neale J., Robertson, M., (2003) Comparisons of self-report data and oral fluid testing in detecting drug use among new treatment clients, Drug and Alcohol Dependence 71(1): 57-64

• Neale, J., Robertson, M., (2003) Waiting for treatment, Druglink, July/August, 18 (4) 14- 15.

• Neale, J., (2003) ‘A response to Darke et al: the ratio of non-fatal to fatal heroin overdose’, Addiction, 98 (8) 1171.