There is evidence to suggest that medically supervised drug consumption rooms (DCRs) may form part of responses to reduce drug-related harm. Although DCRs have been established globally, they are perceived by some to be a controversial approach in the UK, and Government has repeatedly rejected proposals to establish one in Glasgow, Scotland. As public support is an important component of policy development and enactment, we sought to investigate the effects of different types of message framing on public support for DCR.
We undertook a cross-sectional online study with a randomised design, conducted with a nationally representative sample. Participants were randomised to one of six message conditions comprising combinations of four components. All conditions included i) a basic description of a DCR, and conditions included combinations of ii) factual information; iii) pre-emptive refutation of common public concerns about DCR; and/or iv) a sympathetic narrative describing a mother whose son died from a heroin overdose. After reading each message, participants completed a bespoke measure assessing support for DCR. Data were analysed using ANCOVA.
Complete data were obtained from 1591 participants (50.3% Female; mean age 44.9 ± 16.1 years). Compared to reading a basic description of DCR alone, there was greater support for DCR in participants receiving the refutation (p < .001); sympathetic + factual (p < .05); and sympathetic + factual + refutation (p < .001) message conditions. Presenting factual or sympathetic messages alone were not associated with increased support.
Our findings suggest that public support for DCRs is not improved through communication of factual statements outlining potential benefits of the intervention alone. Advocates seeking to foster public support, and thus influence policy making, should also consider communication campaigns that address common concerns that the public might have about DCRs, and present the intervention in relation to potential benefits that they hold for people indirectly affected by drug-related harm.