The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has commissioned Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to monitor emerging substance use trends and changes in drug markets across Greater Manchester. Our multi-method GM TRENDS research approach has never been adopted before in the UK.
The findings will inform the work of the established Greater Manchester Local Drugs Information System (LDIS), identify at risk groups in our communities, and provide recommendations on service development, harm reduction, and wider training and awareness raising.
The first strand of the research consists of an online questionnaire that covers 44 substances from alcohol to zopiclone. Those working with substance users can take part in the survey for professionals at tinyurl.com/GM-TRENDS-KR while people who use drugs can complete the survey at tinyurl.com/GM-TRENDS-PWUD
For the second phase of the project, researchers will gain more detailed insight through in-depth interviews with professionals working in a wide range of sectors including children’s services, education, homelessness and supported housing, criminal justice, health and substance use services.
The third strand comprises detailed analysis of drug samples tested by MANDRAKE, the Manchester Drug Analysis and Knowledge Exchange, a drugs testing research project based at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), which has been developed by MMU and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to test non-evidential drug samples, along with samples submitted by other external agencies.
MANDRAKE’s work not only identifies the components of substances but also provides in-depth information on purity and potency within a very short timeframe. This builds on the existing relationship between MANDRAKE, GMP and the GMCA that enables the Greater Manchester Drugs Early Warning System to issue public alerts about any serious dangers of drugs in circulation on the basis of accurate laboratory testing.
The survey findings, in-depth interviews and drug testing results will inform a ‘trends focus’ to better understand motivations, risks and service development needs. This involves deeper exploration directly with user groups where new drug trends have been identified as a specific cause for concern.
The user focus of the GM TRENDS project underlines our commitment to helping in the development of responsive and tailored harm reduction policies, initiatives and services, and to raising awareness of emerging drug trends and potential harms across all public services.