Trends in methamphetamine and opioid use among clients of needle-syringe programs in Queensland, Australia: 2007–2015


Introduction and Aims: Needle-syringe programs (NSP) are an underutilized source of data on drug injection trends; these data are essential for informing public health interventions. We examine trends in NSP service occasions from 2007–2015. Design and Methods: Using standardised data from 26 NSP outlets through the Queensland NSP Minimum Data Set (QNSPMDS), trends in service occasions among clients intending to inject methamphetamine, heroin, opioid substitution therapy (OST) medications and other pharmaceutical opioids were assessed using multilevel mixed-effects negative binomial regression, adjusting for month, year, age and clustering by site. Results: Over 1.5 million service occasions were recorded in 2007–2015. Methamphetamine was the main ‘drug intended to inject’ (33.7%), however cf. 2007, the incidence rate ratio decreased to 0.64 (95% CI: 0.62, 0.66) in 2009, remaining low until 2015. Among clients reporting methamphetamine injection, there was a shift in the form from base to the higher-potency crystal methamphetamine since 2012. Heroin injection (22.5% service occasions) initially increased (cf. 2007), followed by a decline to 0.77 (95% CI: 0.75, 0.79) in 2015. Significant and sustained increases in OST and other pharmaceutical opioids injection were observed throughout the study period, accounting for 7.2% and 19.8% of total visits, respectively. Discussion and Conclusions: The QNSPMDS provides unique, routinely collected, jurisdiction-wide and standardised data on the demographics of people who inject drugs, types of drugs injected and regional variations; these data are essential in informing policy, planning and program implementation. There remains significant opportunity to enhance engagement and linkage to care alongside needle-syringe provision. © 2019 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

Drug and Alcohol Review