Home > Treated opiate users: alcohol use and treatment outcomes.

Lyons, Suzi (2011) Treated opiate users: alcohol use and treatment outcomes. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 37, Spring 2011, p. 24.

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Researchers analysed data from the Research Outcome Study in Ireland Evaluating drug treatment effectiveness (ROSIE) study to investigate alcohol use among opiate users and associated treatment outcomes.1 The aim of the research was to examine the frequency and quantity of alcohol use among opiate users at entry to treatment and at follow-up to establish ‘whether the success rate of a program may be, in part, related to the alcohol using habits of the client’.

ROSIE was the first national, prospective longitudinal opiate drug treatment outcome study to be done in Ireland. The study recruited 404 new opiate drug-treatment clients in 2003/2004. These were followed up at one year (76% re-interviewed) and at three years (88% re-interviewed).2 The mean age of the participants was 27 years, and 72% were men.
For the purposes of the study described here, data relating to 242 of the original ROSIE intake were classified according to the participants’ alcohol usage. The three categories used were: abstainers (had not drunk in the past 90 days); medium drinkers (consumed up to 70g (men) or 50g (women) of alcohol per typical using day); and heavy drinkers (consumed more than 70g (men) or 50g (women) per typical using day). The analysis showed that at the start of the study 49% of men and 43% of women were defined as heavy drinkers. At the three-year follow-up, the proportion of heavy drinkers had dropped for both groups –  to 26% of men and 28% of women. 
The association between alcohol use and crime, health, employment, personal finances, and drug usage was investigated. The study found that abstainers were the lowest offenders in terms of certain crimes, including assault. Logistic regression was used to investigate the link between drinking and drug usage at the three-year follow-up. It was found that abstainers used heroin and other drugs less frequently.
The authors state that their results show that the link between drug and alcohol use is complex, and that other factors, such as gender, age and ongoing or changing alcohol and drug usage, need to be considered when assessing and planning treatment for opiate users in order to target their treatment effectively.
1.   Stapleton R and Comiskey C (2010) Alcohol usage and associated treatment outcomes for opiate users entering treatment in Ireland. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 107: 56–61.
2.   For more information and results from the original ROSIE study, see www.nuim.ie/rosie
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Alcohol, Opioid
Issue Title
Issue 37, Spring 2011
Page Range
p. 24
Health Research Board
Issue 37, Spring 2011
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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