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Emergency department presentations in the first weeks following release from prison among men with a history of injecting drug use in Victoria, Australia: A prospective cohort study.

Cossar RD, Stewart AC, Wilkinson AL, Dietze P, Ogloff JRP, Aitken C, Butler T, Kinner SA, Curtis M, Walker S, Kirwan A, Stoové M

  • Journal The International journal on drug policy

  • Published 03 Dec 2021

  • Volume 101

  • Pagination 103532

  • DOI 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103532


Rates of emergency department (ED) use are higher among people released from prison than in the general population. However, little is known about ED presentations specifically among people with a history of injecting drug use (IDU) leaving prison. We measured the incidence of ED presentation in the three months following release from prison, among a cohort of men with histories of IDU, and determined pre-release characteristics associated with presenting to an ED during this period.

We analysed linked survey and administrative data from the Prison and Transition Health (PATH) study (N = 400) using multiple-failure survival analysis.

Twenty-one percent (n = 81/393) of the cohort presented to an ED at least once within the three months after release from prison. The incidence of ED presentation was highest in the first six days after release. Cox proportional hazards modelling showed that a history of in-patient psychiatric admission and housing instability were associated with increased hazard of an ED presentation, and identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander was associated with decreased hazard.

In our study, ED presentations following release from prison among people with a history of IDU was linked to acute health risks related to known mental health and social vulnerabilities in this population. Greater collaboration and systems integration between prison and community health and support services is needed to reduce presentations to ED and associated morbidities among people with a history of IDU after release from prison.