Home > Problematic alcohol use among methadone users: update on a HRB-funded study.

Lyons, Suzi (2011) Problematic alcohol use among methadone users: update on a HRB-funded study. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 37, Spring 2011, p. 18.

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Problematic alcohol use is common among injecting drug users and is known to be associated with adverse health outcomes. Recently published systematic reviews1 have demonstrated the role of primary care in screening and treatment for problematic alcohol use and the importance of a stepped approach to alcohol treatment, whereby hazardous or harmful alcohol use benefits from more intensive or specialised treatment.  

The UCD School of Medicine, in conjunction with the University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and HSE Addiction Services, is conducting a study on problem alcohol use among people with opiate dependency in primary care. The research team is led by Professor Walter Cullen and the study is funded by the Health Research Board (HRB).
The aim of the study, ‘Towards optimum care of problematic alcohol use among patients with opiate dependency’, is to inform and improve the screening and treatment of problem alcohol use among methadone users in primary care by:
·         describing both users’ and providers’ experiences of and attitudes towards such screening and treatment;
·         developing a complex intervention to improve screening and treatment rates;
·         determining the views of professionals and patients regarding optimal implementation of this complex intervention.
This qualitative study is being carried out in three phases in the east coast.   
In the first phase, 57 healthcare professionals and methadone users from 23 randomly selected GP practices and specialist addiction services were interviewed about their experience of and attitudes towards screening and treatment for problematic alcohol use.
In phase two, the researchers aim to develop clinical guidelines for screening and treatment for problem alcohol use among drug users. These guidelines will be informed by the findings of the interviews conducted in phase one, by expert opinion obtained through a facilitated expert consensus process, and by a Cochrane systematic review.
Phase three will begin once the guidelines have been developed. The researchers will again seek the opinions of healthcare professionals and methadone users in focus groups on how the guidelines should best be implemented.
The research team is currently looking for interested professionals in the areas of primary care, drug or alcohol addiction treatment (in- and outpatient), public health, psychiatry or hepatology to participate in the process. Interested professionals in general practice or general medicine, services users and community organisations are also very welcome to become involved.
For more information, or to join the multidisciplinary group developing clinical guidelines, please contact the researchers at 01 4730893 or by email: catherine-anne.field@ucd.ie or jan.klimas@ucd.ie.
1.   See, for example, Kaner E et al. (2009) The effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions in primary care settings: a systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28(3): 301–23.

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