top of page

Pharmacies as potential providers of harm reduction services: A preliminary online survey

Two people looking at a box of something in a pharmacy

Background Recreational drug use is a major cause of disease, injury, physical and mental impairment and death in developed countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and psilocybe mushrooms are recreational drugs with capacity to cause harm. Cannabis, MDMA and psilocybin have reported therapeutic applications.

Objectives The primary purpose of this study was to determine which of the three types of vendor (pharmacy, shop and the black market) are perceived to be the most suitable for selling the substances discussed according to a general population sample.

Methods A sample of 105 UK nationals was selected for the survey. Participants were presented information regarding reported relative dangers of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, MDMA and psilocybin and potential therapeutic applications. Participants were then asked to review harm reduction strategies.

Results It was found that participants concluded that pharmacists with available NHS support from GPs and mental health workers are the most suitable vendors of cannabis, MDMA and psilocybin as opposed to regulated shops or the black market (p < 0.001). There was a high level of support for selling cannabis in pharmacies both for therapeutic use and for harm reduction purposes with a mean score of 7.0 out of 10. Participants (60) with a university education were found to be more in favour of the substances being sold primarily in pharmacies (alcohol 5.6, tobacco 6.7, cannabis 7.6, MDMA 6.5 and psilocybin 6.5) than participants (45) with no university qualification (alcohol 5.0, tobacco 4.8, cannabis 6.3, MDMA 5.0 and psilocybin 5.1).

Conclusions The data suggest that the university-educated participants are supportive of treating recreational drug use as a health issue with GPs, mental health workers and pharmacists taking on roles.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

For open-access to the full report of this research, see below:

Keep up with developments in drug science

Reading, engaging with, and sharing our publications, papers and commentary gives evidence-based science and policy the audience it needs and deserves.

bottom of page