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Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

I am a social scientist and currently a Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for the postgraduate social science programme in Contemporary Drug and Alcohol Studies (CDAS) at UWS.

I am the module co-ordinator for postgraduate modules on Understanding Substance Use; the Politics of Drug and Alcohol Policy; Drugs and Culture; and the MSc CDAS dissertation. I contribute to postgraduate teaching across the School on the MSc Applied Social Science.

My research work explores the lived experience and the problematisation of key social issues such as poverty; health inequalities; and drug and alcohol use. I have a particular interest in the interaction between drug-related harms/drug-related deaths and inequality/risk environments, and in the politics of policymaking. I have researched and published widely on these topics while working in a variety of settings including the third sector, academia, and government.

I focus on research that is participative, engages with the communities affected, and has an impact on policy and practice in relation to drug and social policy reform. I work closely with experts by experience (people who are marginalised, stigmatised, and/or use drugs); community and voluntary sector organisations; policy makers and advisors; and service providers to ensure my research is relevant, equitable and accessible.

I have a successful history of securing grant funding for research and knowledge exchange; designing and project managing research studies; establishing and leading research teams; managing financial expenditure; and disseminating research findings to impact on policy and practice.

Prior to joining UWS, I was a Lecturer and co-ordinator of the Diploma in Community Drugs Work at University College Dublin (UCD); senior researcher at the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, Ireland; community researcher on the Fatima Mansions (Dublin) housing estate regeneration project; and a researcher at the Health Research Board, Ireland; the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London; and the Drug Indicators Project, Birkbeck College, University of London.


Academic Citizenship:

  • Institutional and School Lead for the Athena SWAN gender equality initiative at University of the West of Scotland.
  • Steering Group member of the Drugs Research Network Scotland (DRNS) and academic lead for the 'harms' theme. https://drns.ac.uk/steering-group/
  • Director of the Scottish Drugs Forum.
  • Steering Group member of the Scottish Drugs Policy Conversations think-tank.
  • Member of Editorial Board of the international journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy.
  • Member of Board of management of the European Society for Social Drugs Research (ESSD). Organised annual conference of the ESSD at UWS Paisley in Sept. 2015 bringing together 45 principal researchers from 13 countries across Europe to present cutting-edge research over three days.
  • Forrmer Chairperson: Rialto Community Drugs Team, Dublin
  • Member of the International Society for the Study of Drugs Policy
  • Peer reviewer for two international journals: Drugs: education, prevention and policy; and the International Journal of Drugs Policy.

Current research activities

My research focuses on a number of interconnected areas:

  • the impact of inequality, policy-related harms and drug-related harms (such as drug use and drug markets) on marginalised communities;
  • conceptualising polydrug use (in collaboration with the National Institute for Health and Well-Being, Finland);
  • framing drugs in the construction of dangerous classes and dangerous spaces (part of an edited collection for Routledge);
  • exploring perceptions of risk, pleasure, and harm reduction among young Scottish adults who use drugs in recreational settings;
  • the meaning of 'recovery' for people on long-term methadone maintenance. 


Recent Studies included:
  • Principal investigator - study on Drugs use in the context of poverty and inequality awarded external funding by the Drugs Task Force (Clondalkin) Ireland (2015-2016).
  • Principal investigator - Europe wide study of the drug policy reform movement commissioned by the European Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA, Lisbon) (2013-2014).
  • Principal investigator - study on Patterns of (licit and illicit) drug use in Dublin funded by the Drugs Task Force (Finglas-Cabra) (2013)
  • Partner in an inter-institutional, interdisciplinary longitudinal study on Social Housing, Disadvantage, and Neighbourhood Liveability (UCD Geary Institute, Ireland). Lead researcher on the crime and drugs strands of the study. Funded by the Departments of Social Protection, and Environment, Ireland (2008-2014).

Desired research direction

I aim to further the understanding of social, health and gender inequalities by expoloring the the social and structural determinants of risk policy environments. 

I work closely with national and international academic colleagues; people who are marginalised, use drugs, and the communities affected by drug harms; policy advocates from community and voluntary sector organisations; policy makers and advisors; and service providers to make my research findings accessible, equitable and easy to translate into policy.

Target collaborative organisations

Drugs Research Network Scotland

Scottish Drugs Forum

Substance Misuse Unit, Scottish Government



External positions

2017, Drugs Research Network Scotland

2017 → …

Board of Management, Scottish Drugs Forum

2017 → …

Scientific Committee , International Society for the Study of Drugs Policy (ISSDP)

2016 → …

Steering Group, Scottish Drugs Policy Conversations

2015 → …

Board of Management , European Society for Social Drugs Research (ESSD)

2014 → …

International Editorial Board , Drugs: education, prevention and policy - journal

2012 → …


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