A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) identifies three groups of clients who use publicly-funded alcohol and other drug treatment services. Three percent of clients accessed services in all 4 years of the study, the majority of whom received treatment for a total duration of one year or more.
The report, Patterns of alcohol and other drug treatment service use, 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2018, analyses the service use of nearly 81,000 Australians who received a closed treatment episode between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2015 and follows them until 30 June 2018.
A closed treatment episode is the defined period of contact between a client and treatment provider which has been completed or otherwise ceased.
‘More than 2 in 3 (67%) clients were classified as ‘transitory service users’ who received at least one closed treatment episode in 2014–15 but didn’t receive any further treatment during the next 3 years,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Moira Hewitt.
‘Thirty per cent of clients were ‘episodic service users’ who received at least one closed treatment episode in 2014–15 and a closed treatment episode in at least one but not all of the following 3 years.
‘Three per cent of clients were ‘continual service users’ who received at least one closed treatment episode in each of the 4 years of the study.’
Alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern across all three groups of clients in the study, accounting for about one-third of treatment episodes, 37% for continual and transitory and 33% for episodic service users.
Following alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis and heroin were the next three most common principal drugs of concern for which clients sought alcohol and other drug treatment. Transitory service users had the highest proportion of closed episodes where cannabis was the principal drug of concern (32%). Continual service users had the highest proportion of closed episodes where amphetamines (30%) or heroin (7.3%) was the principal drug of concern.
While the continual service user group made up a small proportion of all alcohol and other drug service clients, the report shows the high level of contact this group had with the sector.
‘Most continual service users received treatment from multiple agencies, and for a total duration of 12 months or longer. The median episode duration for continual service users was 24 days, and more than 1 in 3 (36%) continual service users received 10 or more closed treatment episodes’ Ms. Hewitt said.
‘The use of alcohol and other drugs in Australia is a major public health concern associated with a range of adverse outcomes including injury, mental illness, violence, crime, preventable disease and death. This report provides a richer understanding of varied client needs which may assist in tailoring treatment services and informing targeted interventions to better support client needs.’