The health service use of older heroin users is unknown. The study aimed to determine health service utilization, and dispensed prescriptions, among a cohort of heroin users at 11 years.
A 11-year postbaseline follow-up of the Australian Treatment Outcome Study cohort. Health service utilization and dispensed prescriptions were examined over the month preceding interview.
At 11-year follow-up, 431 (70.1%) participants were interviewed, with a mean age of 40.0 years and 20.4 years since heroin initiation. In the month preceding interview, 76.1% used a medical service for issues not related to drug treatment, 66.6% having visited a General Practitioner. Use of a health service was independently associated with poorer physical and mental health. A total of 452 prescriptions were dispensed to 54.3% of participants. A psychotropic medication was dispensed to 40.8% of the cohort, comprising 61.7% of dispensed prescriptions. The most commonly dispensed psychotropics were anxiolytics/hypnosedatives and narcotic analgesics. A nonpsychotropic medication had been prescribed to 26.0% (30.3% of dispensed prescriptions). The most commonly received nonpsychotropic medications were antibiotics and anticonvulsants. Having had a psychotropic medication dispensed was independently associated with poorer physical and mental health, and a nonpsychotropic medication with poorer physical health and not being enrolled in a drug treatment program.
Both health service use and dispensed prescriptions were high. The predictors of service use suggest that such use is likely to be primarily related to the declining health of an ageing cohort.