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The relationship between alcohol use and injecting drug use: impacts on health, crime and wellbeing.

Dietze P, Jenkinson R, Aitken C, Stoové M, Jolley D, Hickman M, Kerr T

  • Journal Drug and alcohol dependence

  • Published 16 Sep 2012

  • Volume 128

  • ISSUE 1-2

  • Pagination 111-5

  • DOI 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.08.013


People who inject drugs (PWID) are at risk of a variety of adverse outcomes. Previous research suggests that alcohol, when consumed with opioids, is a risk factor for overdose, but there has been less investigation of the effects of alcohol consumption on other health, criminogenic or life satisfaction outcomes. In this paper we explore the effects of alcohol on outcomes for PWID across a variety of life domains.

Baseline data were drawn from the Melbourne Injecting Drug User cohort study, which is a cohort of 688 PWID. Drinking scores were generated from the AUDIT-C (0, 1-7, 8+) and associations between them and health (recent heroin overdose, Emergency Department use), criminogenic (violent and nonviolent crime) and life satisfaction (personal wellbeing) outcomes were examined using logistic and linear regression.

While around 36% of the cohort reported past-month abstinence from alcohol, 44% scored between 1 and 7 and 20% above 7 on the AUDIT-C. A score above 7 was associated with perpetration of violent crime and lower personal wellbeing ratings than a score of 0, after adjusting for potential confounders. There was no association between alcohol and other outcomes examined, after adjustment for confounders.

Cohort participants who drink heavily were more likely to report engaging in violent crime and poorer life satisfaction. The relationship between alcohol and the offending behaviours of the cohort was consistent with the effects of alcohol on violent offending in the broader community.