Alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment services aim to support people to reduce harmful AOD use. Clients accessing these services often receive multiple episodes of treatment, with some clients requiring more intensive treatment (for example, more episodes of treatment) to achieve their goals.
Using the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Data Set (AODTS NMDS), this report examines the treatment patterns of clients who received treatment from publicly funded specialist AOD services in the study period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019 (that is, 5 collection periods) for 3 client cohorts.
The 3 cohorts were those undertaking:
- intensive treatment (6,695 clients, or 3.2%)—clients who received 7 or more closed treatment episodes across at least 3 collection periods (that is, financial years)
- recurring treatment (14,292 clients, or 6.8%)—clients who received fewer than 7 closed treatment episodes across at least 3 collection periods
- non-recurring treatment (190,062 clients, or 90%)—clients who received treatment in fewer than 3 collection periods.
Clients who received intensive treatment were more likely to be female and less likely to live in disadvantaged or remote areas than clients who received recurring and non-recurring treatment
The cohort of clients that received intensive treatment had the highest percentage of females (41%) and clients residing in the least disadvantaged socioeconomic areas (18%). They were also less likely to live in Outer regional, Remote and Very remote areas (15%) than other clients.
Clients who received intensive treatment were more likely than clients who received recurring and non-recurring treatment to report multiple principal drugs of concern
Among all AOD clients, irrespective of their treatment cohort, alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern (PDOC) and counselling was the most common main treatment type.
Almost 2 in 3 (61%) clients who received intensive treatment reported multiple PDOC across episodes, compared with 53% for recurring and 11% for non-recurring treatment.
7 in 10 (70%) clients who received intensive treatment received at least 3 different main treatment types, compared with 25% for recurring and 3.1% for non-recurring treatment.
Clients who received either intensive or recurring treatment were more likely to end their last reported treatment episode in the study period with an unplanned cessation compared with previous treatment episodes
Clients who received intensive treatment were more likely to record an unplanned cessation for their last reported episode in the study period (26%) compared with all episodes (18%). This was also true for clients who received recurring treatment (31% for the last reported episode and 26% across all episodes).
Clients who received intensive treatment did not follow a dominant treatment pattern
Clients who received intensive treatment received many different combinations of treatment with no dominant pattern. For example, clients who received treatment for the most common PDOC—alcohol—followed over 500 different patterns of treatment.
Further development of the AODTS NMDS data collection could provide more comprehensive information about why people cease treatment
This analysis does not include information about treatment outcomes or severity of dependence. Outcomes and severity of dependence may be associated with the number of episodes clients receive, but it is not clear what that relationship is. For example, non-recurring clients may leave treatment because they met their treatment goals or, conversely, due to difficulties with treatment access. Inclusion of outcome data items in the AODTS NMDS could provide more information about why clients cease or return to treatment.