Changes in Substance Use During Outpatient Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: A Prospective Norwegian Cohort Study From 2016 to 2020
Continuous use of amphetamines, alcohol, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, or opioids contributes to health impairments, increased morbidity, and overdose deaths among patients with substance use disorders (SUDs). This study evaluates the impact of inpatient detoxification, injecting substance use, age, and gender on substance use over time among patients undergoing outpatient SUD treatment.
This study used data from a cohort of SUD patients in Norway obtained from health assessments of self-reported substance use and sociodemographic and clinical factors. A total of 881 substance use measurements, including substances and frequency of use, were assessed for 708 SUD patients in 2016–2020. Of those, 171 patients provided two or more substance use measurements. The total substance use was calculated, creating a substance use severity index (SUSI), ranging from zero (no use) to one (daily use of all substances). This study defined baseline as the first substance use measurement when the measurements were listed chronologically. Time was defined as years from baseline. The study used a linear mixed model to analyze the SUSI at baseline and over time, and its associations with inpatient detoxification, injecting substance use, gender, and age, presented with coefficients and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
No longitudinal changes in the SUSI were found compared with baseline (change in SUSI (cSUSI): 0.04, 95% CI: − 0.05;0.13, p = 0.397). Likewise, “inpatient detoxification” was not associated with changes in the SUSI compared with “no inpatient detoxification” (cSUSI: 0.00, 95% CI: − 0.04;0.04, p = 0.952). However, injecting substances were associated with a higher SUSI than not injecting substances at baseline (difference in SUSI: 0.19, 95% CI: 0.16;0.21, p = < 0.001), and starting to inject substances was associated with increasing SUSI over time compared with not starting to inject substances (cSUSI: 0.11, 95% CI: 0.07;0.15, p = < 0.001). Gender was not significantly associated with changes in the SUSI (cSUSI: − 0.04, 95% CI: − 0.07;0.00, p = 0.052), while patients over 60 years of age had a lower SUSI than those under the age of 30 at baseline (difference in SUSI: − 0.08, 95% CI: − 0.14;− 0.01, p = 0.018), with no change over time (cSUSI: − 0.05, 95% CI: − 0.16;0.05, p = 0.297).
The present study demonstrates that inpatient detoxification was not associated with substance use changes over time for patients undergoing outpatient SUD treatment. Otherwise, injecting substance use was a particular risk factor for a high level of substance use. Future research needs to evaluate the impact of other treatment approaches on substance use, ideally in randomized controlled trials.