The hidden menace of drink and drugs

Heather Still is undertaking a year long study into the effects of drink and drugs on Arran.

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Sub-heading: Biggest survey aims to improve services

By Hugh Boag

There is a hidden problem on Arran and that is the twin menace of drink and drugs which can have a devastating impact on families and the wider community.

Now a psychologist is looking for participants to take part in the biggest ever study looking into how to improve drug and alcohol services on the island.

Heather Still has been taken on by the Arran Community and Voluntary Service (ACVS) as an embedded’ researcher and she is presently undertaking a year long comprehensive study looking at the causes and cures of the problems which, she says, are often hidden in a variety of ways.

This will provide an evidence based and independent report, a holistic overview of all aspects of service in relation to drug and alcohol misuse, this includes any quantitative and qualitative information reporting on current status around access, availability, location, barriers and demands. The study is being funded by the Corra Foundation, as part of the substance misuse challenge fund.

Among the findings she has made so far is that Arran has its own particular set of the problems which are very different from the mainland.

Although Arran is often viewed as an idyllic destination evidence points to an increasing amount of time spent dealing with issues created by alcohol and drug misuse with minimal resources. Recreational drug and alcohol misuse have dramatically increased, both among the young as well as the island’s ageing population, and there is a need to identify the extent of issues and recognise what is required to help resolve them.

For example Heather has found that many people escape to Arran because they see it as idyllic and cut off without dealing with their problems, making them either vulnerable to addiction or more likely to continue their addiction.

The population is also significantly older adult, retired and has a good source of income in contrast to the working population, who often working in hospitality trades and poorly paid to reflect the tourism industry. This impacts how alcohol and drugs are consumed and their presentation at hospitals, GPs and social services.

Arran has a typically high employment rate and a lot successful professionals, again feeding into the hidden nature of the problems.

Heather said: ‘There isn’t that mainland visibility where people ingesting alcohol and drugs are more likely to do so in public spaces. This helps fuel the assumption that there isn’t an issue here.

‘Also there isn’t a visible presence of alcohol and drug support on the island which are largely mainland based so not everyone knows what is available for people on Arran. Parents whose children were taking drugs were unsure on where to go for help and anxious on how to communicate openly with their children,’ she added.

Now Heather is looking for local people to get involved to help raise awareness and shape the development of recovery services specific to the island’s needs.

Heather said: ‘Part of this process  is to capture experiences of family members and people with drink/drug issues through either through interviews and focus groups or having them more involved proactively in the research process. I’ve recruited quite a few but need one last recruitment push so I can start analysing the results.’

The project began a year ago when Arran CVS facilitated a local focus group to engage on the new alcohol and drug strategy developed by the Scottish Government.  The focus group consisted of service providers, police representative, members of public, health and social care employees and Alcoholics Anonymous representatives. During discussions, it became clear that communication between agencies, support and information for service users and families, and earlier intervention needs, on the island, required review.

Please contact Heather at if you’re want to find out more or wish to take part. You do not need to have been involved in any alcohol or drugs services to contribute.

There is also an online survey on the community and personal perceptions of drink and drugs on Arran which can be found at:


Heather Still is undertaking a year long study into the effects of drink and drugs on Arran. 01_B48drugs01

Heather outside the Arran CVS office in Lamlash which is her base. 01_B48 drugs02