Process and predictors of drug treatment referral and referral uptake at the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2008 Nov;27(6):602-12. doi: 10.1080/09595230801995668.


Introduction and aims: Low-threshold drug services such as drug consumption rooms (DCRs) have been posited as referral gateways to drug treatment for injecting drug users (IDUs). We examined the process and predictors of drug treatment referral and referral uptake at an Australian DCR.

Design and methods: We undertook behavioural surveillance of the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) client cohort between May 2001 and October 2002. Data were collected for 3715 IDUs on demographics, injecting and drug use behaviours at registration and all subsequent MSIC service utilisation, including referrals. Referral uptake (defined as presentation for assessment at the relevant agency) was traced via reply-paid postcards included with written referrals.

Results: Sixteen per cent of clients who received written referrals to drug treatment had confirmed drug treatment referral uptake. Factors associated with drug treatment referral were frequent MSIC attendance [adjusted odds ratios (AOR = 9.4], receipt of written health (AOR = 4.8) or psychosocial (AOR = 4.3) referrals, heroin as main drug injected (AOR = 1.9) and completion of high school education (AOR = 1.6). Factors associated positively with drug treatment referral uptake were recent sex work (AOR = 2.6) and at least daily injection (AOR = 2.3). Previous psychiatric illness or self-harm was associated negatively with drug treatment referral uptake (AOR = 0.2).

Discussion and conclusions: MSIC engaged IDUs successfully in drug treatment referral and this was associated with presentation for drug treatment assessment and other health and psychosocial services. To improve rates of drug treatment referral and uptake, those with a history of mental health issues may require more intensive referral and case management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction
  • Heroin Dependence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needle-Exchange Programs / organization & administration
  • Needle-Exchange Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Sex Work
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / organization & administration
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology