Background: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of drug and alcohol (D&A) services and associated outcomes have been under-researched. 

Aim: This study aimed to understand the experiences of service providers in relation to how drug and alcohol (D&A) services were affected during COVID-19 pandemic, including the adaptations made and lessons learnt for the future. 

Method: Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants from various D&A service organisations across the UK. Data were audio recorded, followed by transcription and thematic analysis. 

Results: A total of 46 participants representing various service providers were recruited between October and January 2022. The thematic analysis identified ten themes. COVID-19 required significant changes to how the treatment was provided and prioritised. Expansion of telehealth and digital services were described, which reduced service wait times and increased opportunities for peer network. However, they described missed opportunities for disease screening, and some users risked facing digital exclusion. Participants who provided opiate substitution therapy service spoke of improving service provider/user trust following the shift from daily supervised treatment consumption to weekly dispensing. At the same time, they feared fatal overdoses and non-adherence to treatment. 

Conclusion: This study demonstrates the multifaceted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK-based D&A service provisions. The long-term impact of reduced supervision on Substance Use Disorder treatment and outcomes and any effect of virtual communications on service efficiency, patient-provider relationships and treatment retention and successes are unknown, suggesting the need for further study to assess their utility.


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Cite as

Richards-Jones, L., Patel, P., Jagpal, P., Lowrie, R., Saunders, K., Burwood, S., Shrestha, S. & Paudyal, V. 2023, 'Provision of drug and alcohol services amidst COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative evaluation on the experiences of service providers', International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, 45, pp. 1098-1106. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11096-023-01557-1

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Last updated: 23 April 2024
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