NDARC Technical Report No. 139 (2003)
Introduction: Heroin use, with its associated harms, represents a serious public health concern, and generates many challenges for treatment providers. In Australia, an estimated 74,000 individuals are thought to be heroin dependent, with more people treated for dependence on opioids than any other drug class. Despite this, little is known about how effective the main treatment options are in practice.
The Australian Treatment Outcome Study (ATOS) is the first large scale longitudinal study of treatment outcome for heroin dependence to be conducted in Australia. ATOS is coordinated by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), and is conducted in collaboration with the Drug and Alcohol Services Council (DASC) and Turning Point.
The aims of ATOS are:
The current report addresses the first aim and presents data from the New South Wales arm of the study.
Method: Nineteen treatment agencies were randomly selected from within the three main treatment modalities (methadone/buprenorphine maintenance therapy; detoxification; residential rehabilitation) stratified by area health service. Five hundred and thirty five individuals entering treatment and 80 heroin users not seeking treatment were recruited into the study and interviewed by NDARC staff using a structured questionnaire. Valid and reliable instruments such as the Opiate Treatment Index (OTI), Short Form-12 (SF-12) and Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) were used to measure drug use, health, criminal activity, and psychiatric comorbidity. Consent and locator details were obtained to facilitate follow-up at 3 and 12 months.
Conclusion: Comorbid psychiatric and drug problems are prevalent among the ATOS sample and are likely to influence treatment outcomes. These baseline findings will be taken into consideration when assessing the 3 and 12 month follow-up data.