Opiate substitution treatment (OST) is the most widely used treatment for opioid dependence in Germany with substantial long-term benefits for the patient and for society. Due to lessened restrictive admission criteria, the number of registered OST patients in Germany has increased continuously in the recent years, whereas the number of physicians providing OST has remained constant. Previous data already indicated a deteriorating situation in the availability or quality of OST delivered and that structural barriers impede physicians in actively providing OST. The present survey among a sample of primary care physicians in Germany aimed to identify and assess potential structural barriers for the provision of health care in the context of OST.
An anonymous written questionnaire was sent out to a sample of 2,332 physicians across Germany providing OST. Physicians contacted were identified through databases of the Federal State Chambers of Physicians and/or of the Federal Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. Data obtained were analysed descriptively.
The response rate was 25,5% and the majority of 596 physicians sampled viewed substantial problems in terms of the regulatory framework of OST care in the German context. Furthermore, financial remuneration, insufficient qualification, as well as inadequate interdisciplinary cooperation in the treatment of comorbidities of opiate substituted patients were regarded as problematic. The number of physicians providing OST in Germany is expected to substantially decrease in the near future.
Despite less restrictive admission criteria for OST in Germany, the legal regulation framework for OST is still a limiting factor through raising concerns on the provider and consumer side to be unable to adhere to the strict rules. To avoid future shortages in the provision of OST care on the system level in Germany, revisions to the legal framework seem to be necessary. In regards to adequate care for drug use-related infectious diseases and psychiatric comorbidities commonly found in opiate substituted patients, efforts are required to improve professional qualifications of physicians providing OST as well as respective interdisciplinary collaboration.
Barriers; Opiate substitution treatment; Primary care; Drug-related infectious diseases; Psychiatric care; Regulation; Health system; Germany
Non-medical prescription opioid use (NMPOU) and prescription opioid (PO) related harms have become major substance use and public health problems in North America, the region with the world’s highest PO use levels. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, NMPOU rates, PO-related treatment admissions and accidental mortality have risen sharply in recent years. A series of recent policy interventions from governmental and non-governmental entities to stem PO-related problems have been implemented since 2010.
We compared the prevalence of NMPOU in the Ontario general adult population (18 years+) in 2010 and 2011 based on data from the ‘Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Monitor’ (CM), a long-standing annual telephone interview-based representative population survey of substance use and health indicators. While ‘any PO use’ (in past year) changed non-significantly from 26.6% to 23.9% (Chi2 = 2.511; df = 1; p = 0.113), NMPOU decreased significantly from 7.7% to 4.0% (Chi2 = 14.786; df = 1; p < 0.001) between 2010 and 2011. Over-time changes varied by age group but not by sex.
The observed substantial decrease in NMPOU in the Ontario adult population could be related to recent policy interventions, alongside extensive media reporting, focusing on NMPOU and PO-related harms, and may mean that these interventions have shown initial effects. However, other casual factors could have been involved. Thus, it is necessary to systematically examine whether the observed changes will be sustained, and whether other key PO-related harm indicators (e.g., treatment admissions, accidental mortality) change correspondingly in order to more systematically assess the impact of the policy measures.
Prescription opioids; Non-medical use; Policy; Interventions; Prescription monitoring; Population health; Canada
Morbidity and mortality related to Prescription Opioid Analgesics (POAs) have been rising sharply in North America. Non-Medical Prescription Opioid Use (NMPOU) in the general population is a key indicator of POA-related harm, yet the role of question item design for best NMPOU prevalence estimates in general population surveys is unclear, and existing NMPOU survey data for Canada are limited.
We tested the impact of different NMPOU question items by comparing an item in the 2008 and 2009 (N = 2,017) samples of the CAMH Monitor surveys – an Ontario adult general population survey – with a newly developed item used in the 2010 (N = 2,015) samples of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Monitor surveys. To control for a potential difference in the population demographics between surveys, we adjusted for gender, age, region, income, prescription opioid use, cigarette smoking, weekly binge drinking, cannabis use in the past three months, and psychological distress in our analyses.
The prevalence of NMPOU as measured by the 2008 and 2009 CAMH monitor (2.0% [95% CI: 1.2% to 2.8%]) was significantly different when compared to the prevalence of NMPOU as measured by the 2010 CAMH monitor (7.7% [95% CI: 6.3% to 9.2%]) (p < 0.001). This difference was also found when stratifying our analysis by sex (p < 0.001) and when adjusting for all potential confounding covariates.
It is highly unlikely that the extensive NMPOU prevalence differences observed from the different survey items reflect an actual increase of NMPOU or changes in NMPOU determinants, but rather point to measurement effects. It appears that we currently do not have accurate estimates of NMPOU in the Canadian general population, even though these estimates are needed to guide and implement targeted interventions. Given the current substantial morbidity and mortality impact of NMPOU, there is an urgent need to systematically develop, validate and standardize NMPOU items for future general population surveys in Canada.
Prescription Opioids; Non-medical use; Surveillance; General population; Morbidity
Street-involved youth are an important population with respect to Hepatitis C. We therefore undertook this study to determine factors associated with HCV-antibody-positive status among street-involved youth. Vulnerabilities included injection drug use, ≥ 1 daily heroin and crystal methamphetamine injection. Implementing injection drug use prevention, evidence-based opioid substitution and crystal methamphetamine treatment programs for street-involved youth is critical.
It is widely accepted that content-based image retrieval (CBIR) can be extremely useful for computer-aided diagnosis (CAD). However, CBIR has not been established in clinical practice yet. As a widely unattended gap of integration, a unified data concept for CBIR-based CAD results and reporting is lacking. Picture archiving and communication systems and the workflow of radiologists must be considered for successful data integration to be achieved. We suggest that CBIR systems applied to CAD should integrate their results in a picture archiving and communication systems environment such as Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) structured reporting documents. A sample DICOM structured reporting template adaptable to CBIR and an appropriate integration scheme is presented. The proposed CBIR data concept may foster the promulgation of CBIR systems in clinical environments and, thereby, improve the diagnostic process.
Diagnosis; computer-assisted; content-based image retrieval (CBIR); picture archiving and communication system (PACS (radiology); digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) structured reporting (SR); health Level 7 (HL7); RWTH; helmholtz; radiology; image processing; data management; interfaces; protocols
One in three young people use cannabis in Canada. Cannabis use can be associated with a variety of health problems which occur primarily among intensive/frequent users. Availability and effectiveness of conventional treatment for cannabis use is limited. While Brief Interventions (BIs) have been shown to result in short-term reductions of cannabis use risks or problems, few studies have assessed their longer-term effects. The present study examined 12-month follow-up outcomes for BIs in a cohort of young Canadian high-frequency cannabis users where select short-term effects (3 months) had previously been assessed and demonstrated.
N = 134 frequent cannabis users were recruited from among university students in Toronto, randomized to either an oral or a written cannabis BI, or corresponding health controls, and assessed in-person at baseline, 3-months, and 12-months. N = 72 (54 %) of the original sample were retained for follow-up analyses at 12-months where reductions in ‘deep inhalation/breathholding’ (Q = 13.1; p < .05) and ‘driving after cannabis use’ (Q = 9.3; p < .05) were observed in the experimental groups. Reductions for these indicators had been shown at 3-months in the experimental groups; these reductions were maintained over the year. Other indicators assessed remained overall stable in both experimental and control groups.
The results confirm findings from select other studies indicating the potential for longer-term and sustained risk reduction effects of BIs for cannabis use. While further research is needed on the long-term effects of BIs, these may be a valuable – and efficient – intervention tool in a public health approach to high-risk cannabis use.
Cannabis use; Frequent use; Young adults; Brief interventions; Prevention; Canada
Radiologists' training is based on intensive practice and can be improved with the use of diagnostic training systems. However, existing systems typically require laboriously prepared training cases and lack integration into the clinical environment with a proper learning scenario. Consequently, diagnostic training systems advancing decision-making skills are not well established in radiological education.
We investigated didactic concepts and appraised methods appropriate to the radiology domain, as follows: (i) Adult learning theories stress the importance of work-related practice gained in a team of problem-solvers; (ii) Case-based reasoning (CBR) parallels the human problem-solving process; (iii) Content-based image retrieval (CBIR) can be useful for computer-aided diagnosis (CAD). To overcome the known drawbacks of existing learning systems, we developed the concept of image-based case retrieval for radiological education (IBCR-RE). The IBCR-RE diagnostic training is embedded into a didactic framework based on the Seven Jump approach, which is well established in problem-based learning (PBL). In order to provide a learning environment that is as similar as possible to radiological practice, we have analysed the radiological workflow and environment.
We mapped the IBCR-RE diagnostic training approach into the Image Retrieval in Medical Applications (IRMA) framework, resulting in the proposed concept of the IRMAdiag training application. IRMAdiag makes use of the modular structure of IRMA and comprises (i) the IRMA core, i.e., the IRMA CBIR engine; and (ii) the IRMAcon viewer. We propose embedding IRMAdiag into hospital information technology (IT) infrastructure using the standard protocols Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) and Health Level Seven (HL7). Furthermore, we present a case description and a scheme of planned evaluations to comprehensively assess the system.
The IBCR-RE paradigm incorporates a novel combination of essential aspects of diagnostic learning in radiology: (i) Provision of work-relevant experiences in a training environment integrated into the radiologist's working context; (ii) Up-to-date training cases that do not require cumbersome preparation because they are provided by routinely generated electronic medical records; (iii) Support of the way adults learn while remaining suitable for the patient- and problem-oriented nature of medicine. Future work will address unanswered questions to complete the implementation of the IRMAdiag trainer.
Some heroin addicts are very difficult to treat. Jürgen Rehm and Benedikt Fischer believe that maintenance with heroin is the way forward for this group, but Neil McKeganey argues that it is treating the effects of misuse not the addiction
Content-based image retrieval (CBIR) has been proposed as key technology for computer-aided diagnostics (CAD). This paper reviews the state of the art and future challenges in CBIR for CAD applied to clinical practice.
We define applicability to clinical practice by having recently demonstrated the CBIR system on one of the CAD demonstration workshops held at international conferences, such as SPIE Medical Imaging, CARS, SIIM, RSNA, and IEEE ISBI. From 2009 to 2011, the programs of CADdemo@CARS and the CAD Demonstration Workshop at SPIE Medical Imaging were sought for the key word “retrieval” in the title. The systems identified were analyzed and compared according to the hierarchy of gaps for CBIR systems.
In total, 70 software demonstrations were analyzed. 5 systems were identified meeting the criterions. The fields of application are (i) bone age assessment, (ii) bone fractures, (iii) interstitial lung diseases, and (iv) mammography. Bridging the particular gaps of semantics, feature extraction, feature structure, and evaluation have been addressed most frequently.
In specific application domains, CBIR technology is available for clinical practice. While system development has mainly focused on bridging content and feature gaps, performance and usability have become increasingly important. The evaluation must be based on a larger set of reference data, and workflow integration must be achieved before CBIR-CAD is really established in clinical practice.
Content-based image retrieval; medical image retrieval; diagnosis aid; prototypes.
Little is known about the possible role that smoking crack cocaine has on the incidence of HIV infection. Given the increasing use of crack cocaine, we sought to examine whether use of this illicit drug has become a risk factor for HIV infection.
We included data from people participating in the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study who reported injecting illicit drugs at least once in the month before enrolment, lived in the greater Vancouver area, were HIV-negative at enrolment and completed at least 1 follow-up study visit. To determine whether the risk of HIV seroconversion among daily smokers of crack cocaine changed over time, we used Cox proportional hazards regression and divided the study into 3 periods: May 1, 1996–Nov. 30, 1999 (period 1), Dec. 1, 1999–Nov. 30, 2002 (period 2), and Dec. 1, 2002–Dec. 30, 2005 (period 3).
Overall, 1048 eligible injection drug users were included in our study. Of these, 137 acquired HIV infection during follow-up. The mean proportion of participants who reported daily smoking of crack cocaine increased from 11.6% in period 1 to 39.7% in period 3. After adjusting for potential confounders, we found that the risk of HIV seroconversion among participants who were daily smokers of crack cocaine increased over time (period 1: hazard ratio [HR] 1.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.57–1.85; period 2: HR 1.68, 95% CI 1.01–2.80; and period 3: HR 2.74, 95% CI 1.06–7.11).
Smoking of crack cocaine was found to be an independent risk factor for HIV seroconversion among people who were injection drug users. This finding points to the urgent need for evidence-based public health initiatives targeted at people who smoke crack cocaine.
There is evidence of a high prevalence of prescription opioid (PO) and crack use among street drug users in Toronto. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe drug use behaviours and preferences as well as the social and environmental context surrounding the use of these drugs among young and old street-based drug injection drug users (IDUs).
In-depth interviews were conducted with 25 PO injectors. Topics covered included drug use history, types of drugs used, how drugs were purchased and transitions to PO use. Interviews were taped and transcribed. Content analysis was conducted to identify themes.
Five prominent themes emerged from the interviews: 1) Combination of crack and prescription opioids, 2) First injection experience and transition to prescription opioids, 3) Drug preferences and availability, 4) Housing and income and 5) Obtaining drugs. There was consensus that OxyContin and crack were the most commonly available drugs on the streets of Toronto. Drug use preferences and behaviours were influenced by the availability of drugs, the desired effect, ease of administration and expectations around the purity of the drugs. Distinct experiences were observed among younger users as compared to older users. In particular, the initiation of injection drug use and experimentation with POs among younger users was influenced by their experiences on the street, their peers and general curiosity.
Given the current profile of street-based drug market in Toronto and the emergence of crack and POs as two predominant illicit drug groups, understanding drug use patterns and socio-economic factors among younger and older users in this population has important implications for preventive and therapeutic interventions.
Since the initial Swiss heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) study conducted in the mid-1990s, several other jurisdictions in Europe and North America have implemented HAT trials. All of these studies embrace the same goal—investigating the utility of medical heroin prescribing for problematic opioid users—yet are distinct in various key details. This paper briefly reviews (initiated or completed) studies and their main parameters, including primary research objectives, design, target populations, outcome measures, current status and—where available—key results. We conclude this overview with some final observations on a decade of intensive HAT research in the jurisdictions examined, including the suggestion that there is a mounting onus on the realm of politics to translate the—largely positive—data from completed HAT science into corresponding policy and programming in order to expand effective treatment options for the high-risk population of illicit opioid users.
Heroin-assisted treatment; Science; Politics; Opioid dependence; Clinical trials
Most of the estimated 125,000 injection drug users (IDUs) in Canada use illicit opioids and are outside treatment (i.e., methadone maintenance treatment). Empirical data suggest that illicit opioid users outside treatment are characterized by various health and social problem characteristics, including polydrug use, physical and mental morbidity, social marginalization, and crime. Although required for evidence-based programming, systematic information on this specific substance-user population is sparse in Canada to date. This article presents and compares key characteristics of population of illicit opioid users outside treatment in five cities across Canada (OPICAN cohort). Overall, the majority of OPICAN participants regularly used both a variety of illicit opioids and cocaine or crack, reported physical and mental health (e.g., mood disorder) problems, lacked permanent housing, were involved in crime, and had their “ideal” treatment not available to them. However, key local sample differences were shown, including patterns of heroin versus prescription opioid use and levels of additional cocaine versus crack use as well as indicators of social marginalization. Illicit opioid user population across Canada differ on key social, health, and drug use indicators that are crucial for interventions and are often demonstrated between larger and smaller city sites. Differentiated interventions are required.
Canada; Comorbidity; Dependence; Health; Heroin use; Illicit opioid use; Infectious disease; Methadone treatment; Polydrug use; Treatment
Infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major public health burden in Canada and globally. The literature shows that injection drug use is currently the primary transmission route for HCV, and that a majority of injection drug users (IDUs) are currently infected with HCV in Canada. This article first reviews the burden of HCV within IDU populations and the transmission risks and the treatment implications speicifc to IDUs. Traditionally, IDUs have been excluded from HCV treatment unless abstaining from illicit drug use. However, recent research suggests that categorical exclusion is not medically necessary. A series of key questions about the feasibility of offering HCV treatment to IDUs in the specific Canadian context are considered, including concerns related to the motivation of treatment for IDUs, treatment delivery, treatment side effects, HCV reinfection, and the social environment. The article concludes that treatment of HCV-infected illicit drug users is both feasible and may be necessary to reduce transmission and adverse outcomes in this high-risk population.
Canada; Hepatitis C; Injection drug use; Prevention; Treatment
Drug overdose is a major cause of death and illness among illicit drug users. Previous research has indicated that most illicit drug users experience nonfatal overdoses and has suggested a variety of factors that are associated with risk of overdose. In this study, we examined the occurrence of and the factors associated with nonfatal overdoses within a Canadian sample of illicit opioid users not enrolled in treatment at the time of study recruitment.
Interviewers used a standard questionnaire to collect data on sociodemographic characteristics, drug use, health and health care, experience in the criminal justice system and treatment for drug problems; they also performed standard assessments for mental health and infectious disease. The association between overdose and sociodemographic and drug-use factors was examined with χ2 and t test analyses; marginally significant variables were examined with logistic regression to determine independent effects.
A total of 679 subjects were interviewed; 651 provided answers sufficient for this analysis. One hundred and twelve (17.2%) of the 651 respondents reported an overdose episode in the previous 6 months. In the logistic regression analysis (after adjustment for sociodemographic factors), homelessness, noninjection use of hydromorphone in the past 30 days and involvement in drug treatment in the past 12 months were predictors of overdose (p < 0.05).
Overdose poses a considerable health risk for illicit opioid users. We found that a diverse set of factors was associated with overdose episodes. Prevention efforts will likely be more effective if they can be directed to specific causal factors.
Using cost-of-illness methodology applied to a comprehensive survey of 114 daily opiate users not currently in or seeking treatment for their addiction, we estimated the 1996 social costs of untreated opioid dependence in Toronto (Ontario, Canada). The survey collected data on social and demographic characteristics, drug use history, physical and mental health status, the use of health care and substance treatment services, drug use modality and sex-related risks of infectious diseases, sources of income, as well as criminality and involvement with the law enforcement system. The annual social cost generated by this sample, calculated at Canadian $5.086 million, is explained mostly by crime victimization (44.6%) and law enforcement (42.4%), followed by productivity losses (7.0%) and the utilization of health care (6.1%). Applying the $13,100 cost to the estimated 8,000 to 13,000 users and 2.456 million residents living in Toronto yields a range of social cost between $43 and $69 per capita.
Cost of illness; Illicit drugs; Opioid dependence