Drug use patterns and mental health of regular amphetamine users during a reported ‘heroin drought’

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Abstract

Aims

The present study extends the findings of a pilot study conducted among regular amphetamine users in Newcastle, NSW, in 1998. It compares key features between current participants in a state capital city (Brisbane) and a regional city (Newcastle) and between the 1998 and current Newcastle sample.

Design

Cross-sectional survey.

Setting

Brisbane and Newcastle, Australia.

Participants

The survey was conducted among 214 regular amphetamine users within the context of a randomized controlled trial of brief interventions for amphetamine use.

Measurements

Demographic characteristics, past and present alcohol and other drug use and mental health, treatment, amphetamine-related harms and severity of dependence.

Findings

The main findings were as follows: (i) the rate of mental health problems was high among regular amphetamine users and these problems commonly emerged after commencement of regular amphetamine use; (ii) there were regional differences in drug use with greater accessibility to a wider range of drugs in a state capital city and greater levels of injecting risk-taking behaviour outside the capital city environment; and (iii) there was a significant increase in level of amphetamine use and percentage of alcohol users, a trend for a higher level of amphetamine dependence and a significant reduction in the percentage of people using heroin and benzodiazepines among the 2002 Newcastle cohort compared to the 1998 cohort.

Conclusions

Further longitudinal research is needed to elucidate transitions from one drug type to another and from recreational to injecting and regular use and the relationship between drug use and mental health in prospective studies among users.

Implications

Intervention research should evaluate the effectiveness of interventions aimed at: preventing transition to injecting and regular use of amphetamines; toward reducing levels of depression among amphetamine users and interventions among people with severe psychopathology and personality disorders; and toward reducing the prevalence of tobacco dependence among amphetamine users.

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