New app will help women make informed choices about drug use including safe injecting

·4-min read
Angela Constance meets the people involved with the app  Picture: Paul Chappells
Angela Constance meets the people involved with the app Picture: Paul Chappells

A first-of-its-kind app has been hailed as a way for women to make informed choices about drug use.

Leading charity Simon Community Scotland (SCS) and tech consultancy AND Digital have teamed up to create app By My Side.

The move comes in response to the soaring increase of drug deaths among women - up 293% from 132 women to 387 women since 2009.

By My Side gives easy-to-access evidence-based harm reduction support, advice and resources to people using the charity’s services.

Claire Longmuir, Head of Harm Reduction at Simon Community Scotland, said: “In Scotland, there has been a disproportionate increase in drug related deaths amongst women, especially those aged over 35 years old.

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"In 2009, women accounted for around a quarter of drug related deaths, they now account for 31%.

"The reasons for this involve many interconnected factors, but we know for many women it is rooted in experiences of trauma, adversity and loss.

“By opening up a conversation with the women we support, it became clear that there was a real gap in harm reduction knowledge, especially around topics such as safer injecting, overdose and managing wounds.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:


"While there is a lot of useful information out there, much of it is aimed at professionals and may not always meet the needs of people who really seek to benefit from it.

“Stigma was also raised as a concern - specifically that associated with being a woman who uses drugs.

"Importantly, this app will give women access to high quality information to guide their health decisions, without ever having to go near a service if they don’t want to.

"It’s about choice.

"Digital offers people choice and flexibility around how they can access the information, advice and support that feels right for them.”

Angela Constance, the Scottish Government Minister for Drugs Policy, today visited the SCS Access Hub on Argyle Street to meet women who use the charity’s services and find out how the By My Side app is helping them.

Staff at AND Digital’s Glasgow office volunteer for the charity by offering their digital skills and expertise.

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Designed "for women, by women", the By My Side app has been co-developed with women supported by SCS, directly addressing the challenges they face in gaining access to the right information.

Initially focused on advice to prevent drug-related harm, the app is now home to wider resources such as mental health guidance, support for those affected by domestic or sexual violence and information for managing sexual health.

By making relevant advice and resources readily available and accessible, the app will support women to make more informed decisions about their health, wellbeing and safety.

Ms Constance said: “We need to pull together all resources to help reduce drugs deaths and harm in Scotland and this easy to access digital app helping women make informed choices about their drug use aligns perfectly with our national mission.

“This work between Simon Community Scotland and AND Digital shows how businesses can use their own services and skills to support the third sector and have a positive impact on communities.”

Development of the By My Side app has led to SCS becoming the official charity partner of AND Digital’s Glasgow office, Club Almeida.

AND Digital will continue to provide its expertise across future digital projects and support ongoing work with the organisation.

The app will launch initially within SCS’s residential women’s services, before being rolled out across the wider organisation and to external partners – many of whom have already contributed material and resources.

SCS’s ambition is for the platform to become a digital resource that supports key workers and the people they support in alcohol and drugs addictions.

Kelly Innes, People Lead at AND Digital’s Glasgow club, said: “Developing this app alongside Simon Community Scotland has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

"By working closely with the women who will really benefit from access to these resources, we’ve been able to offer a platform which is reflective of real life experiences, while rooted in evidence-based best practice.”

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