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We aimed to determine the rates of alcohol and substance use in geriatric hospital and community health settings, and to evaluate the performance of screening instruments.
A two-phase cross-sectional study was undertaken in geriatric and aged care psychiatry wards and associated community services of a teaching hospital. Participants were screened with the Brief Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C) and the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) for other substances; Geriatric Depression Scale-15 for mood; the Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale; and the Subjective Quality of Life scale. Medical conditions were established. Screen positives for risky substance use continued with the full AUDIT, full ASSIST, CAGE, Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination-Revised, and the Functional Activities Questionnaire. Medical records were reviewed after three months to ascertain recognition and management of substance use.
Of 210 participants aged 60+ (mean age 81.9, 63.3% female) without dementia or delirium and Mini Mental State Examination score ≥24, 41 (19.5%) were screen positive – 36 (17.1%) for alcohol, seven for non-medical benzodiazepine use (3.3%) (four alcohol and benzodiazepine) and two for non-medical opioid use (0.95%). Screen positives differed from screen negatives on few demographic or health measures. On the ASSIST, 26 (12.4%) were rated as medium/high risk. The AUDIT-C with cut-point of ≥5 was the optimal measure for detecting risky alcohol use.
Many patients in geriatric health services have risky alcohol or substance use, but few clinical features distinguish them from other patients. Routine screening of alcohol and substance use is recommended.
Despite evidence of the effectiveness of injectable opioid treatment compared with oral methadone for chronic heroin addiction, the additional cost of injectable treatment is considerable, and cost-effectiveness uncertain.
To compare the cost-effectiveness of supervised injectable heroin and injectable methadone with optimised oral methadone for chronic refractory heroin addiction.
Multisite, open-label, randomised controlled trial. Outcomes were assessed in terms of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Economic perspective included health, social services and criminal justice resources.
Intervention costs over 26 weeks were significantly higher for injectable heroin (mean £8995 v. £4674 injectable methadone and £2596 oral methadone; P<0.0001). Costs overall were highest for oral methadone (mean £15805 v. £13410 injectable heroin and £10945 injectable methadone; P =n.s.) due to higher costs of criminal activity. In cost-effectiveness analysis, oral methadone was dominated by injectable heroin and injectable methadone (more expensive and less effective). At willingness to pay of £30 000 per QALY, there is a higher probability of injectable methadone being more cost-effective (80%) than injectable heroin.
Injectable opioid treatments are more cost-effective than optimised oral methadone for chronic refractory heroin addiction. The choice between supervised injectable heroin and injectable methadone is less clear. There is currently evidence to suggest superior effectiveness of injectable heroin but at a cost that policy makers may find unacceptable. Future research should consider the use of decision analytic techniques to model expected costs and benefits of the treatments over the longer term.
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