Thursday, 15 October 2015

SPHPM researchers ask how health services can help injecting drug users quit

SPHPM’s Ms Dhanya Nambiar, Dr Mark Stoove and Professor Paul Dietze have co-authored a paper with researchers from the University of Bristol and the Burnet Institute, discussing the factors associated with cessation of injecting drug use.

It is commonly known that injecting drug use leads to poor health outcomes and a greater risk of mortality when compared against the rest of the population. While there is a breadth of information on harm reduction strategies such as the use of syringe programs, the use of opioid substitution therapy, and the availability of safe injecting facilities, individuals who engage in injecting drug use are still subject to poorer health outcomes and poor wellbeing.

Past studies have identified that the most common outcome in injecting drug use are frequent relapses and low cessation rates. This study sought to explore the associations between first-episode cessation of injecting drug use and the role that health services can have in the timeline of injecting drug use. 

There is almost no Australian research exploring the factors that lead to cessation of injecting drug use, and little internationally, so further research is urgently needed. Furthermore, the role of health services in cessation is unknown. Health services may be crucial as they play an important role in decisions around further drug treatment. 

The authors utilised data from 467 people in an on-going study on people who inject drugs. The authors conducted a discrete time-survival analysis to identify how reports of the first time participants ceased injecting drug use (no self-reported injecting drug use for 12 months), correlated with the use of health services, socio-demographic variables and drug related behaviours.

The results indicated that less than a fifth of participants (17.8 per cent) reported cessation of 12 months or more. Factors such as a younger age (25-29 as opposed to 30 and over) and male gender were positively associated with cessation whereas factors such as the use of benzodiazepines and cannabis, and being arrested in the past year, were negatively associated with cessation. The use of outpatient services had the greatest impact on cessation.

The authors conclude that the low rates of cessation demonstrate that there is a need for thorough and long term harm reduction services for people who inject drugs. Furthermore, the association between the use of outpatient services and cessation highlight that there is a need for further research in the field of utilisation of health services and injecting drug use. 

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