Publications by authors named "Matthew Hickman"

381 Publications

Framing public health response to the opioid and overdose crisis: are there alternatives to cascade of care model?

Eur J Public Health 2021 Sep 6. Epub 2021 Sep 6.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckab031DOI Listing
September 2021

Is adolescent multiple risk behaviour associated with reduced socioeconomic status in young adulthood and do those with low socioeconomic backgrounds experience greater negative impact? Findings from two UK birth cohort studies.

BMC Public Health 2021 09 3;21(1):1614. Epub 2021 Sep 3.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, BG3 Oakfield House, Bristol, BS8 2BN, UK.

Background: Adolescent multiple risk behaviour (MRB) is associated with negative outcomes such as police arrests, unemployment and premature mortality and morbidity. What is unknown is whether MRB is associated with socioeconomic status (SES) in adulthood. We test whether adolescent MRB is associated with socioeconomic status (SES) in young adulthood and whether it is moderated by early life SES variables.

Methods: Prospective cohort studies; British Cohort Study 1970 (BCS70) and Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), born in 1991-1992, were used and two comparable MRB variables were derived. Logistic regression was used to determine the association between MRB and young adult SES. The moderating effect of three early life SES variables was assessed using logistic regression models with and without interaction parameters. Evidence to support the presence of moderation was determined by likelihood ratio tests ≤p = 0.05. Multiple imputation was used to account for missing data.

Results: Adolescents had a median of two risk behaviours in BCS70 and three in ALSPAC. Adolescent MRB was negatively associated with young adult SES (university degree attainment) in BCS70 (OR 0.81, 95% CI: 0.76, 0.86) and ALSPAC (OR 0.85, 95% CI: 0.82, 0.88). There was a dose response relationship, with each additional risk behaviour resulting in reduced odds of university degree attainment. MRB was associated occupational status at age 34 in BCS70 (OR 0.86 95% CI: 0.82, 0.90). In BCS70, there was evidence that maternal education (p = 0.03), parental occupational status (p = 0.009) and household income (p = 0.03) moderated the effect of adolescent MRB on young adult SES in that the negative effect of MRB is stronger for those with low socioeconomic backgrounds. No evidence of moderation was found in the ALSPAC cohort.

Conclusions: Adolescence appears to be a critical time in the life course to address risk behaviours, due to the likelihood that behaviours established here may have effects in adulthood. Intervening on adolescent MRB could improve later SES outcomes and thus affect health outcomes later in life. Evidence for a moderation effect in the BCS70 but not ALSPAC suggests that more detailed measures should be investigated to capture the nuance of contemporary young adult SES.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-11638-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8414729PMC
September 2021

Diversity of incarceration patterns among people who inject drugs and the association with incident hepatitis C virus infection.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 Aug 24:103419. Epub 2021 Aug 24.

Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, H3C 3J7, Canada; Research Centre of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, H2 × 0A9, Canada. Electronic address:

Background: Little is known about the relationship between short-term incarceration and risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among people who inject drugs (PWID). We investigated whether varying patterns of recent incarceration lasting less than two years are associated with HCV acquisition risk in this population.

Methods: We followed prospectively PWID at risk of acquiring HCV infection in Montréal (2004-2019). At 6-month (up until 2011), then 3-month intervals, participants were tested for HCV antibodies or RNA, and self-reported whether they have been incarcerated in each of the previous 6 or 3 months. If incarcerated, they reported the setting and time spent in incarceration. We fit three separate multivariable time-updated Cox regression models, one for each measure of incarceration: any incarceration lasting less than two years (yes/no), incarceration stratified by setting (local police station/provincial prison/no) and incarceration stratified by time in incarceration (≤1 week/>1 week and ≤1 month/>1 month and <2 years/no).

Results: Among 709 PWID followed over 2315.2 person-years, HCV incidence was 9.9/100 person-years (95% confidence interval (CI): 8.7-11.2)]. During follow-up, 248 PWID (35.0%) reported at least one recent incarceration episode of less than two years. Overall, compared to PWID who did not experience incarceration in the prior 6 or 3 months, PWID who did were 1.56 (95% CI: 1.13, 2.17) times more likely to acquire HCV. We found no statistically significant difference in the magnitude of associations across categories of setting and time in incarceration (likelihood ratio test P= 0.53 and 0.44, respectively).

Conclusion: Any recent incarceration lasting less than two years, regardless of the setting and time in incarceration, was associated with an elevated risk of HCV acquisition among PWID. Findings support the need to expand access to harm-reduction programs in short-term incarceration settings and, in parallel, to prioritise public health-oriented alternatives to incarcerating PWID where possible.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103419DOI Listing
August 2021

Assessing HIV and overdose risks for people who use drugs exposed to compulsory drug abstinence programs (CDAP): A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 Aug 10:103401. Epub 2021 Aug 10.

Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Background: Evidence supports integrating drug use treatment, harm reduction, and HIV prevention services to address dual epidemics of drug use disorders and HIV. These dual epidemics have spurred a rise in legally-enforced compulsory drug abstinence programs (CDAP), despite limited evidence on its effectiveness. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the association between CDAP exposure and HIV and overdose-related risk.

Methods: We searched PubMed, EBSCOhost and Sociological Abstracts for studies that contained an individual-level association between CDAP exposure and related HIV or overdose risks, with no date restrictions. Meta-analyses were conducted on data abstracted from eligible studies, using pooled random-effects models and I-squared statistics. We assessed quality of the studies across 14 criteria for observational studies.

Results: Out of 2,226 abstracts screened, we included 8 studies (5253 individuals/776 events) across China, Mexico, Thailand, Norway, and the United States. All but two were cross-sectional analyses, limiting strength of observed associations. In the two studies that reported association between CDAP and HIV seropositivity or receptive syringe sharing, findings were inconsistent and did not indicate that those with exposure to CDAP had increased odds of HIV or syringe sharing. However, we found the odds of experiencing non-fatal overdose in lifetime and in the last 6-12 months were 2.02 (95% CI 0.22 - 18.86, p = 0.16) to 3.67 times higher (95% CI 0.21 - 62.88, p = 0.39), respectively, among those with CDAP exposure than those without.

Conclusion: Research assessing HIV risk associated with CDAP is scant and inconclusive, while evidence of robust associations between CDAP and overdose risk continues to mount. More rigorous, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate the causal relationships between CDAP and these health outcomes. Aside from the growing evidence base on collateral harms, ethical considerations dictate that voluntary, evidence-based drug treatment should be prioritized to address the drivers of excess morbidity and mortality among people who use drugs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103401DOI Listing
August 2021

Living Under Coronavirus and Injecting Drugs in Bristol (LUCID-B): A qualitative study of experiences of COVID-19 among people who inject drugs.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 Jul 20;98:103391. Epub 2021 Jul 20.

Centre for Academic Mental Health, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, United Kingdom; Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) are a high-risk group for COVID-19 transmission and serious health consequences. Restrictions imposed in the UK in response to the pandemic led to rapid health and housing service alterations. We aimed to examine PWID experiences of: 1) challenges relating to the COVID-19 public health measures; 2) changes to opioid substitution therapy (OST) and harm reduction services; and 3) perceived effects of COVID-19 on drug use patterns and risk behaviour.

Methods: Telephone semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 PWID in Bristol, Southwest of England. Analysis followed a reflexive thematic analysis.

Results: Concern about COVID-19 and adherence to public health guidance varied. Efforts made by services to continue providing support during the pandemic were appreciated and some changes were preferred, such as less frequent OST collection, relaxation of supervised consumption and needle and syringe programmes (NSP) home delivery. However, remote forms of contact were highlighted as less beneficial and more difficult to engage with than in-person contact. Public health guidance advising people to 'stay home' led to increased isolation, boredom, and time to ruminate which impacted negatively on mental health. Lockdown restrictions directly impacted on sources of income and routine. Changes in drug use were explained as a consequence of isolation and fewer interactions with peers, problems accessing drugs, reduced drug purity and reduced financial resources.

Conclusion: This study captures the significant impacts and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of PWID. While rapid adaptations to service delivery to help mitigate the risks of COVID-19 were appreciated and some changes such as relaxation of supervised daily OST consumption were viewed positively, barriers to access need further attention. Going forwards there may be opportunities to harness the positive aspects of some changes to services.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103391DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8289673PMC
July 2021

COGNITIVE STYLE AND DRINKING TO COPE: A PROSPECTIVE COHORT STUDY.

Addiction 2021 Aug 2. Epub 2021 Aug 2.

University College London.

Background And Aims: Having a negative cognitive style may lead someone to feel hopeless about his or her situation and be more likely to engage in coping-motivated drinking. We therefore aimed to investigate the association between cognitive style and drinking to cope.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: The former Avon Health Authority in South West England.

Participants: 1,681 participants of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Measurements: Participants completed cognitive style questions at age 17 and a subset of drinking to cope questions at age 24. We used linear regression to test the association between cognitive style and drinking to cope, controlling for confounders. Alcohol consumption and dependence scales were included in a secondary analysis.

Findings: A 20 point increase (which was the standard deviation of the exposure variable) in cognitive style score at age 17 was associated with an increase of 0.24 in drinking to cope scores at age 24 after adjustment for confounding variables (95% confidence interval (CI)=0.08-0.41, p=.003). We found no evidence of an association between cognitive style and alcohol consumption (coefficient=0.03, 95% CI=-0.08-0.14, p=.591) before or after adjustment. There was evidence for an association with alcohol dependence but this was not present after adjusting for confounders (coefficient=0.01, 95% CI=-0.04-0.05, p=.769).

Conclusions: In young adults in England, there appears to be a positive association between negative cognitive style and subsequent drinking to cope.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15655DOI Listing
August 2021

Mapping drug epidemiology futures.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 08 25;94:103378. Epub 2021 Jul 25.

Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, UK.

Epidemiology is a core discipline generating evidence to inform and drive drug policy. In this essay, we speculate on what the future of drug epidemiology might become. We highlight for attention two areas shaping the future of drug epidemiology: nesting epidemiology within a 'syndemic' and 'relational' approach; and innovating in relation to causal inference in the face of complexity. We argue that shifts towards a more relational approach emphasise contingency, including in relation to how drugs might constitute benefit or harm. This leads us to speculate on a 'positive epidemiology'; one that is configured not merely in relation to harm but also in relation to the potential benefits of drugs in relation to well-being. In responding to the complex challenges of delineating contingent causalities, we emphasise the potential of carefully conducted observational study designs that go beyond statistical associations to test causal inference. We acknowledge that each of these developments we describe - a shift towards more relational approaches which emphasise contingent causation, and methodological innovations in relation to establishing causal inference - can be at odds with the other in how they imagine drug epidemiology futures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103378DOI Listing
August 2021

The impact of direct-acting antivirals on hepatitis C viraemia among people who inject drugs in England; real-world data 2011-2018.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Jul 16. Epub 2021 Jul 16.

National Infection Service, Public Health England, London, UK.

Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy for anybody with viraemic HCV infection has been scaled-up in England since 2017. To assess early impacts, we investigated trends in, and factors associated with, HCV viraemia among people who inject drugs (PWID). We also examined trends in self-reported treatment access. Bio-behavioural data from an annual, national surveillance survey of PWID (2011-2018) estimated trends in viraemic prevalence among HCV antibody-positive PWID. Multivariable logistic regression identified characteristics independently associated with viraemia. Trends in treatment access were examined for PWID with known infection. Between 2011 and 2016, viraemic prevalence among antibody-positive PWID remained stable (2011, 57.7%; 2016, 55.8%) but decreased in 2017 (49.4%) and 2018 (50.4%) (both p < 0.001). After adjustment for demographic and behavioural characteristics, there remained significant reduction in viraemia in 2017 (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.79, 95% CI 0.65-0.94) and 2018 (aOR 0.79, 95% CI 0.66-0.93) compared to 2016. Other factors associated with viraemia were male gender (aOR 1.68, 95% CI 1.53-1.86), geographical region, injecting in past year (aOR 1.26, 95% CI 1.13-1.41), imprisonment (aOR 1.14, 95% CI 1.04-1.31) and homelessness (aOR 1.17, 95% CI 1.04-1.31). Among non-viraemic PWID with known infection, the proportion reporting ever receiving treatment increased in 2017 (28.7%, p < 0.001) and 2018 (38.9%, p < 0.001) compared to 2016 (14.5%). In conclusion, there has been a small reduction in HCV viraemia among antibody-positive PWID in England since 2016, alongside DAA scale-up, and some indication that treatment access has improved in the same period. Population-level monitoring and focus on harm reduction is critical for achieving and evaluating elimination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13575DOI Listing
July 2021

Experiences of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic from the perspectives of young people: Rapid qualitative study.

Public Health Pract (Oxf) 2021 Nov 8;2:100162. Epub 2021 Jul 8.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Objectives: Young people are considered at lower risk from coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19). However, measures to limit the population health impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic have caused significant disruptions to their lives. The objective of this study was to explore the experiences of young people predominantly living in the south-west of England during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study Design: Rapid qualitative study.

Methods: Following advertisement on social media, a purposive sample of young people by age and gender who had expressed an interest were invited to participate. In June 2020, 21 young people (12-17 years) took part in 18 semi-structured interviews, either through a digital platform or by telephone. Interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was undertaken, assisted by NVvivo Software.

Results: Young people felt the greatest impacts of the pandemic have been disruption to how they learned because of school closures and limited face-to-face interaction with their social networks. There was variation in terms of how satisfied young people were with self-directed learning at home, and some anxieties in relation to its effectiveness outside the school environment. Most young people reported maintaining social relationships remotely, but some young people appeared to have little social interaction outside their household. High levels of adherence to social distancing and handwashing were reported, which could lead to a sense of injustice resulting from visibility of other people breaching social distancing guidance. Young people were willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if a vaccine became available, with the greatest motivator being to protect others above themselves.

Conclusions: Young people have experienced significant disruption to their education and social networks during the COVID-19 pandemic. During lockdown, high levels of compliance to government public health guidelines to reduce transmission of COVID-19 were reported by young people. If an effective vaccine is developed, a schools-based vaccination programme could be an efficient method to interrupt transmission to more at-risk populations and prevent further disruptions to young people's education.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhip.2021.100162DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8264271PMC
November 2021

Secondary analyses to test the impact on inequalities and uptake of the schools-based human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme by stage of implementation of a new consent policy in the south-west of England.

BMJ Open 2021 07 7;11(7):e044980. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Objectives: To test the impact on inequalities and uptake of the schools-based human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme by stage of implementation of a new policy providing additional opportunities to consent.

Setting: Two local authorities in the south-west of England.

Participants: Young women (n=7129) routinely eligible for HPV vaccination aged 12-13 years during the intervention period (2017/2018 to 2018/2019 programme years).

Interventions: Local policy change that included additional opportunities to provide consent (parental verbal consent and adolescent self-consent).

Outcomes: Secondary analyses of cross-sectional intervention data were undertaken to examine uptake by: (1) receipt of parental written consent forms and; (2) percentage of unvaccinated young women by stage of implementation.

Results: During the intervention period, 6341 (89.0%) eligible young women initiated the HPV vaccination series. Parental written consent forms were less likely to be returned where young women attended alternative education provider settings (p<0.001), belonged to non-white British ethnic groups (p<0.01) or more deprived quintiles (p<0.001). Implementation of parental verbal consent and adolescent self-consent reduced the percentage of unvaccinated young women from 21.3% to 16.5% (risk difference: 4.8%). The effect was greater for young women belonging to the most deprived compared with the least deprived quintile (risk difference: 7.4% vs 2.3%, p<0.001), and for young women classified as Unknown ethnic category compared with white British young women (6.7% vs 4.2%, p<0.001). No difference was found for non-white British young women (5.4%, p<0.21).

Conclusions: Local policy change to consent procedures that allowed parents to consent verbally and adolescents to self-consent overcame some of the barriers to vaccination of young women belonging to families less likely to respond to paper-based methods of gaining consent and at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.

Trial Registration Number: 49 086 105.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044980DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8264897PMC
July 2021

Overlapping Key Populations and HIV Transmission in Tijuana, Mexico: A Modelling Analysis of Epidemic Drivers.

AIDS Behav 2021 Jul 3. Epub 2021 Jul 3.

Oakfield House, Population Health Sciences - Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 2BN, UK.

Tijuana, Mexico, has a concentrated HIV epidemic among overlapping key populations (KPs) including people who inject drugs (PWID), female sex workers (FSW), their male clients, and men who have sex with men (MSM). We developed a dynamic HIV transmission model among these KPs to determine the extent to which their unmet prevention and treatment needs is driving HIV transmission. Over 2020-2029 we estimated the proportion of new infections acquired in each KP, and the proportion due to their unprotected risk behaviours. We estimate that 43.7% and 55.3% of new infections are among MSM and PWID, respectively, with FSW and their clients making-up < 10% of new infections. Projections suggest 93.8% of new infections over 2020-2029 will be due to unprotected sex between MSM or unsafe injecting drug use. Prioritizing interventions addressing sexual and injecting risks among MSM and PWID are critical to controlling HIV in Tijuana.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10461-021-03361-2DOI Listing
July 2021

Accuracy of four lateral flow immunoassays for anti SARS-CoV-2 antibodies: a head-to-head comparative study.

EBioMedicine 2021 Jun 4;68:103414. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Public Health England, UK.

Background: SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are used for population surveillance and might have a future role in individual risk assessment. Lateral flow immunoassays (LFIAs) can deliver results rapidly and at scale, but have widely varying accuracy.

Methods: In a laboratory setting, we performed head-to-head comparisons of four LFIAs: the Rapid Test Consortium's AbC-19 Rapid Test, OrientGene COVID IgG/IgM Rapid Test Cassette, SureScreen COVID-19 Rapid Test Cassette, and Biomerica COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test. We analysed blood samples from 2,847 key workers and 1,995 pre-pandemic blood donors with all four devices.

Findings: We observed a clear trade-off between sensitivity and specificity: the IgG band of the SureScreen device and the AbC-19 device had higher specificities but OrientGene and Biomerica higher sensitivities. Based on analysis of pre-pandemic samples, SureScreen IgG band had the highest specificity (98.9%, 95% confidence interval 98.3 to 99.3%), which translated to the highest positive predictive value across any pre-test probability: for example, 95.1% (95% uncertainty interval 92.6, 96.8%) at 20% pre-test probability. All four devices showed higher sensitivity at higher antibody concentrations ("spectrum effects"), but the extent of this varied by device.

Interpretation: The estimates of sensitivity and specificity can be used to adjust for test error rates when using these devices to estimate the prevalence of antibody. If tests were used to determine whether an individual has SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, in an example scenario in which 20% of individuals have antibodies we estimate around 5% of positive results on the most specific device would be false positives.

Funding: Public Health England.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103414DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8176919PMC
June 2021

Big data and predictive modelling for the opioid crisis: existing research and future potential.

Lancet Digit Health 2021 06;3(6):e397-e407

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

A need exists to accurately estimate overdose risk and improve understanding of how to deliver treatments and interventions in people with opioid use disorder in a way that reduces such risk. We consider opportunities for predictive analytics and routinely collected administrative data to evaluate how overdose could be reduced among people with opioid use disorder. Specifically, we summarise global trends in opioid use and overdoses; describe the use of big data in research into opioid overdose; consider the potential for predictive modelling, including machine learning, for prevention and monitoring of opioid overdoses; and outline the challenges and risks relating to the use of big data and machine learning in reducing harms that are related to opioid use. Future research for improving the coverage and provision of existing interventions, treatments, and resources for opioid use disorder requires collaboration of multiple agencies. Predictive modelling could transport the concept of stratified medicine to public health through novel methods, such as predictive modelling and emulated trials for evaluating diagnoses and prognoses of opioid use disorder, predicting treatment response, and providing targeted treatment recommendations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2589-7500(21)00058-3DOI Listing
June 2021

The Melbourne Safe Injecting Room Attracted People Most in Need of Its Service.

Am J Prev Med 2021 08 17;61(2):217-224. Epub 2021 May 17.

Behaviours and Health Risks Program, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia; National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Melbourne, Australia. Electronic address:

Introduction: In 2018, the first Medically Supervised Injecting Room in Melbourne, Australia was officially opened. This study assessed whether this facility attracted people who inject drugs, who were socially vulnerable, and who engaged in drug-related behaviors associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis of the frequency of Medically Supervised Injecting Room use during the first 18 months after opening (July 2018-December 2019) among 658 people who inject drugs participating in the Melbourne Injecting Drug User Cohort Study (SuperMIX). To examine the differences between no Medically Supervised Injecting Room use, infrequent use (<50% injections within the facility), and frequent use (≥50% of injections within the facility), RRRs were estimated using bivariate multinomial logistic regression analyses and postestimation Wald tests. Analyses were conducted in 2020.

Results: A total of 451 participants (68%) reported no Medically Supervised Injecting Room use, 142 (22%) reported infrequent use, and 65 (10%) reported frequent use. Participants who reported either infrequent or frequent use of the facility were more socially vulnerable (e.g., more often homeless) and more likely to report risky drug-related behaviors and poor health outcomes than those who reported no use. Participants who reported frequent use of the facility were also more likely to live close to the facility than those reporting infrequent use.

Conclusions: The Melbourne Medically Supervised Injecting Room attracted socially marginalized people who inject drugs who are most at risk of harms related to injecting drug use and therefore who are most in need of the service. To determine the long-term impact use of this facility on key health outcomes such as overdose, future studies should consider the differences in vulnerability and risk behavior of people who inject drugs who use the Medically Supervised Injecting Room when examining the outcomes associated with the use of the facility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2021.02.018DOI Listing
August 2021

The effect of person, treatment and prescriber characteristics on retention in opioid agonist treatment: a 15-year retrospective cohort study.

Addiction 2021 May 12. Epub 2021 May 12.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Background And Aims: There is limited evidence on the relationship between retention in opioid agonist treatment for opioid dependence and characteristics of treatment prescribers. This study estimated retention in buprenorphine and methadone treatment and its relationship with person, treatment and prescriber characteristics.

Design: Retrospective longitudinal study.

Setting: New South Wales, Australia.

Participants: People entering the opioid agonist treatment programme for the first time between August 2001 and December 2015.

Measurements: Time in opioid agonist treatment (primary outcome) was modelled using a generalized estimating equation model to estimate associations with person, treatment and prescriber characteristics.

Findings: The impact of medication type on opioid agonist treatment retention reduced over time; the risk of leaving treatment when on buprenorphine compared with methadone was higher among those who entered treatment earlier [e.g. 2001-03: odds ratio (OR) = 1.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.45-1.75] and lowest among those who entered most recently (2013-15: OR = 1.23, 95% CI = 1.11-1.36). In adjusted analyses, risk of leaving was reduced among people whose prescriber had longer tenure of prescribing (e.g. 3 versus 8 years: OR = 0.94, 95% CI = 0.93-0.95) compared with prescribers with shorter tenure. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, being of younger age, past-year psychosis disorder and having been convicted of more criminal charges in the year prior to treatment entry were associated with increased risk of leaving treatment.

Conclusion: In New South Wales, Australia, retention in buprenorphine treatment for opioid dependence, compared with methadone, has improved over time since its introduction in 2001. Opioid agonist treatment retention is affected not only by characteristics of the person and his or her treatment, but also of the prescriber, with those of longer prescribing tenure associated with increased retention of people in opioid agonist treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15514DOI Listing
May 2021

Inflammation and Depression: A Public Health Perspective.

Brain Behav Immun 2021 07 18;95:1-3. Epub 2021 Apr 18.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK; MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK; Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Herchel Smith Building, Robinson Way, Cambridge, UK; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge, UK; Centre for Academic Mental Health, Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

The multifaceted role of low-grade systemic inflammation in depression and physical illnesses like cardiovascular disease highlights complex interactions between the body, brain and mind. While current research on inflammation and depression has largely focused on exploring possible disease mechanisms and therapeutic potential, we seek to broaden the current discussion by introducing a public health perspective. In this Viewpoint, we propose that inflammation and its contributing sources could represent important targets for public health strategies aimed at improving both mental and physical health. We discuss potential universal, selective and indicated primary prevention strategies for inflammation-related depression. We consider potential approaches to secondary prevention, including scope for anti-inflammatory treatment and CRP testing for guiding treatment allocation and prognosis. Preventive strategies discussed here could also be relevant for other inflammation-mediated mental health conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2021.04.015DOI Listing
July 2021

Young adult cancer risk behaviours originate in adolescence: a longitudinal analysis using ALSPAC, a UK birth cohort study.

BMC Cancer 2021 Apr 7;21(1):365. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Department of Population Health Sciences, Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, BF4, Barley House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol, BS8 2BN, UK.

Background: An estimated 40% of cancer cases in the UK in 2015 were attributable to cancer risk behaviours. Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and unprotected sexual intercourse are known causes of cancer and there is strong evidence that physical inactivity is associated with cancer. These cancer risk behaviours co-occur however little is known about how they pattern longitudinally across adolescence and early adulthood. Using data from ALSPAC, a prospective population-based UK birth cohort study, we explored patterns of adolescent cancer risk behaviours and their associations with cancer risk behaviours in early adulthood.

Methods: Six thousand three hundred fifty-one people (46.0% of ALSPAC participants) provided data on all cancer risk behaviours at one time during adolescence, 1951 provided data on all cancer risk behaviours at all time points. Our exposure measure was quartiles of a continuous score summarising cumulative exposure to cancer risk behaviours and longitudinal latent classes summarising distinct categories of adolescents exhibiting similar patterns of behaviours, between age 11 and 18 years. Using both exposure measures, odds of harmful drinking (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-C ≥ 8),daily tobacco smoking, nicotine dependence (Fagerström test ≥4), obesity (BMI ≥30), high waist circumference (females: ≥80 cm and males: ≥94 cm, and high waist-hip ratio (females: ≥0.85 and males: ≥1.00) at age 24 were estimated using logistic regression analysis.

Results: We found distinct groups of adolescents characterised by consistently high and consistently low engagement in cancer risk behaviours. After adjustment, adolescents in the top quartile had greater odds of all outcomes in early adulthood: nicotine dependency (odds ratio, OR = 5.37, 95% confidence interval, CI = 3.64-7.93); daily smoking (OR = 5.10, 95% CI =3.19-8.17); obesity (OR = 4.84, 95% CI = 3.33-7.03); high waist circumference (OR = 2.48, 95% CI = 1.94-3.16); harmful drinking (OR = 2.04, 95% CI = 1.57-2.65); and high waist-hip ratio (OR = 1.88, 95% CI = 1.30-2.71), compared to the bottom quartile. In latent class analysis, adolescents characterised by consistently high-risk behaviours throughout adolescence were at higher risk of all cancer risk behaviours at age 24, except harmful drinking.

Conclusions: Exposure to adolescent cancer risk behaviours greatly increased the odds of cancer risk behaviours in early adulthood. Interventions to reduce these behaviours should target multiple rather than single risk behaviours and should focus on adolescence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-021-08098-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8028717PMC
April 2021

The Influence of Alcohol Consumption on Fighting, Shoplifting and Vandalism in Young Adults.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 03 28;18(7). Epub 2021 Mar 28.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK.

Experimental studies support the conventional belief that people behave more aggressively whilst under the influence of alcohol. To examine how these experimental findings manifest in real life situations, this study uses a method for estimating evidence for causality with observational data-'situational decomposition' to examine the association between alcohol consumption and crime in young adults from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Self-report questionnaires were completed at age 24 years to assess typical alcohol consumption and frequency, participation in fighting, shoplifting and vandalism in the previous year, and whether these crimes were committed under the influence of alcohol. Situational decomposition compares the strength of two associations, (1) the between alcohol consumption and crime (sober or intoxicated) versus (2) the association between alcohol consumption and crime committed while sober. There was an association between typical alcohol consumption and total crime for fighting [OR (95% CI): 1.47 (1.29, 1.67)], shoplifting [OR (95% CI): 1.25 (1.12, 1.40)], and vandalism [OR (95% CI): 1.33 (1.12, 1.57)]. The associations for both fighting and shoplifting had a small causal component (with the association for sober crime slightly smaller than the association for total crime). However, the association for vandalism had a larger causal component.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073509DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8036294PMC
March 2021

The effect of needle and syringe program and opioid agonist therapy on the risk of HIV, hepatitis B and C virus infection for people who inject drugs in Amsterdam, the Netherlands: findings from an emulated target trial.

Addiction 2021 Mar 31. Epub 2021 Mar 31.

Department of Infectious Diseases, Research and Prevention, Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Background And Aims: Major declines in HIV and hepatitis C and B virus (HCV/HBV) incidence among people who inject drugs (PWID) have been attributed to early implementation of harm-reduction programs (HRP) in the Netherlands, but alternative factors such as selective mortality and demographic and drug market shifts over time probably contributed to observed incidence declines. We quantified and tested the effect of HRP participation on risk of these infections among PWID in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Design: We emulated the design of a hypothetical, ideal randomized trial using observational data from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies (1985-2014).

Setting: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Participants: We included PWID who ever used opioids, had a recent history of injecting drug use (IDU) and tested negative for HIV, HCV or HBV. Of 983 participants, 640, 137 and 308 were included for the HIV, HCV and HBV analyses and 59, 45 and 49 seroconversions were observed, respectively.

Interventions: Intervention arms were: complete HRP participation [≥ 60 mg/day methadone and 100% needle and syringe program (NSP) coverage, or any methadone dose if no recent injection drug use] versus no HRP and partial HRP participation combined (< 60 methadone mg/day and/or < 100% NSP coverage).

Conclusions: Complete participation in harm reduction programs appears to have led to substantial decreases in HIV and hepatitis C and B virus acquisition risk among people who inject drugs in the Netherlands.

Measurements: Separately for each infection, we estimated the hazard ratios (HR) comparing HRP arms using marginal structural models.

Findings: Compared with no/partial HRP participation, complete HRP participation led to lower risk of HIV [HR = 0.54, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.27-1.08], HCV (HR = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.06-0.40) and HBV (HR = 0.28, 95% CI = 0.13-0.61) acquisition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15503DOI Listing
March 2021

Association between self-reported signs and symptoms and SARS-CoV-2 antibody detection in UK key workers.

J Infect 2021 05 26;82(5):151-161. Epub 2021 Mar 26.

Field Service, East of England, National Infection Service, Public Health England, Cambridge, United Kingdom; NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Genomics and Data Enabling, University of Warwick, Warwick, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Background: Screening for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is under way in some key worker groups; how this adds to self-reported COVID-19 illness is unclear. In this study, we investigate the association between self-reported belief of COVID-19 illness and seropositivity.

Methods: Cross-sectional study of three key worker streams comprising (A) Police and Fire & Rescue (2 sites) (B) healthcare workers (1 site) and (C) healthcare workers with previously positive PCR result (5 sites). We collected self-reported signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and compared this with serology results from two SARS-CoV-2 immunoassays (Roche Elecsys® and EUROIMMUN).

Results: Between 01 and 26 June, we recruited 2847 individuals (Stream A: 1,247, Stream B: 1,546 and Stream C: 154). Amongst those without previous positive PCR tests, 687/2,579 (26%) reported belief they had COVID-19, having experienced compatible symptoms; however, only 208 (30.3%) of these were seropositive on both immunoassays. Both immunoassays had high sensitivities relative to previous PCR positivity (>93%); there was also limited decline in antibody titres up to 110 days post symptom onset. Symptomatic but seronegative individuals had differing symptom profiles and shorter illnesses than seropositive individuals.

Conclusion: Non-COVID-19 respiratory illness may have been mistaken for COVID-19 during the outbreak; laboratory testing is more specific than self-reported key worker beliefs in ascertaining past COVID-19 disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jinf.2021.03.019DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7997203PMC
May 2021

The cost-effectiveness of case-finding strategies for achieving hepatitis C elimination among men who have sex with men in the UK.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Jun 1;28(6):897-908. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Modelling suggests hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination is possible among men who have sex with men (MSM), with key screening groups including HIV-diagnosed MSM and MSM using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Mathematical modelling was used to determine the cost-effectiveness of HCV case-finding strategies among MSM from the provider perspective, and to determine which interventions could achieve a 90% reduction in HCV incidence over 2015-2030. At baseline, we assumed symptomatic screening in HIV-negative MSM (including PrEP users) and 12-monthly screening among HIV-diagnosed MSM. Improved case-finding strategies included screening alongside HIV testing in HIV-negative MSM not using PrEP (PrEP non-users); 12/6/3-monthly screening in PrEP users; and 6-monthly screening in HIV-diagnosed MSM, with the cost-effectiveness being compared incrementally. Costs (GBP) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were assessed to estimate the mean incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) with a time horizon to 2050, compared to a willingness-to-pay threshold of £20,000/QALY. From the baseline, the most incrementally cost-effective strategy is to firstly undertake: (1) 12-monthly HCV screening of PrEP users (gaining 6715 QALYs with ICER £1760/QALY), followed by (2) HCV screening among PrEP non-users alongside HIV testing (gaining 7048 QALYs with ICER £4972/QALY). Compared to the baseline, this combined strategy would cost £46.9 (95%CrI £25.3-£66.9) million and achieve the HCV elimination target in 100% of model runs. Additional screening incurs ICERs >£20,000/QALY compared to this combined strategy. In conclusion, HCV elimination can be achieved cost-effectively among UK MSM. Policymakers should consider scaling-up HCV screening in HIV-negative MSM, especially PrEP users, for achieving this target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13503DOI Listing
June 2021

Effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for reducing parental substance misuse.

Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2021 03 16;3:CD012823. Epub 2021 Mar 16.

Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Background: Parental substance use is a substantial public health and safeguarding concern. There have been a number of trials of interventions relating to substance-using parents that have sought to address this risk factor, with potential outcomes for parent and child.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions in reducing parental substance use (alcohol and/or illicit drugs, excluding tobacco).

Search Methods: We searched the following databases from their inception to July 2020: the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Specialised Register; CENTRAL; MEDLINE; Embase; PsycINFO; CINAHL; Applied Social Science (ASSIA); Sociological Abstracts; Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, ClinicalTrials.gov, WHO ICTRP, and TRoPHI. We also searched key journals and the reference lists of included papers and contacted authors publishing in the field.

Selection Criteria: We included data from trials of complex psychosocial interventions targeting substance use in parents of children under the age of 21 years. Studies were only included if they had a minimum follow-up period of six months from the start of the intervention and compared psychosocial interventions to comparison conditions. The primary outcome of this review was a reduction in the frequency of parental substance use.

Data Collection And Analysis: We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.

Main Results: We included 22 unique studies with a total of 2274 participants (mean age of parents ranged from 26.3 to 40.9 years), examining 24 experimental interventions. The majority of studies intervened with mothers only (n = 16; 73%). Heroin, cocaine, and alcohol were the most commonly reported substances used by participants. The interventions targeted either parenting only (n = 13; 59%); drug and alcohol use only (n = 5; 23%); or integrated interventions which addressed both (n = 6; 27%). Half of the studies (n = 11; 50%) compared the experimental intervention to usual treatment. Other comparison groups were minimal intervention, attention controls, and alternative intervention. Eight of the included studies reported data relating to our primary outcome at 6- and/or 12-month follow-up and were included in a meta-analysis. We investigated intervention effectiveness separately for alcohol and drugs. Studies were found to be mostly at low or unclear risk for all 'Risk of bias' domains except blinding of participants and personnel and outcome assessment.  We found moderate-quality evidence that psychosocial interventions are probably more effective at reducing the frequency of parental alcohol misuse than comparison conditions at 6-month (mean difference (MD) -0.32, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.51 to -0.13; 6 studies, 475 participants) and 12-month follow-up (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.25, 95% CI -0.47 to -0.03; 4 studies, 366 participants). We found a significant reduction in frequency of use at 12 months only (SMD -0.21, 95% CI -0.41 to -0.01; 6 studies, 514 participants, moderate-quality evidence). We examined the effect of the intervention type. We found low-quality evidence that psychosocial interventions targeting substance use only may not reduce the frequency of alcohol (6 months: SMD -0.35, 95% CI -0.86 to 0.16; 2 studies, 89 participants and 12 months: SMD -0.09, 95% CI -0.86 to 0.61; 1 study, 34 participants) or drug use (6 months: SMD 0.01, 95% CI -0.42 to 0.44; 2 studies; 87 participants and 12 months: SMD -0.08, 95% CI -0.81 to 0.65; 1 study, 32 participants). A parenting intervention only, without an adjunctive substance use component, may not reduce frequency of alcohol misuse (6 months: SMD -0.21, 95% CI -0.46 to 0.04, 3 studies; 273 participants, low-quality evidence and 12 months: SMD -0.11, 95% CI -0.64 to 0.41; 2 studies; 219 participants, very low-quality evidence) or frequency of drug use  (6 months: SMD 0.10, 95% CI -0.11 to 0.30; 4 studies; 407 participants, moderate-quality evidence and 12 months: SMD -0.13, 95% CI -0.52 to 0.26; 3 studies; 351 participants, very low-quality evidence). Parents receiving integrated interventions which combined both parenting- and substance use-targeted components may reduce alcohol misuse with a small effect size (6 months: SMD -0.56, 95% CI -0.96 to -0.16 and 12 months: SMD -0.42, 95% CI -0.82 to -0.03; 2 studies, 113 participants) and drug use (6 months: SMD -0.39, 95% CI -0.75 to -0.03 and 12 months: SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.80 to -0.07; 2 studies, 131 participants). However, this evidence was of low quality. Psychosocial interventions in which the child was present in the sessions were not effective in reducing the frequency of parental alcohol or drug use, whilst interventions that did not involve children in any of the sessions were found to reduce frequency of alcohol misuse (6 months: SMD -0.47, 95% CI -0.76 to -0.18; 3 studies, 202 participants and 12 months: SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.69 to 0.00; 2 studies, 147 participants) and drug use at 12-month follow-up (SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.69 to 0.01; 2 studies, 141 participants). The quality of this evidence was low. Interventions appeared to be more often beneficial for fathers than for mothers. We found low- to very low-quality evidence of a reduction in frequency of alcohol misuse for mothers at six months only (SMD -0.27, 95% CI -0.50 to -0.04; 4 studies, 328 participants), whilst in fathers there was a reduction in frequency of alcohol misuse (6 months: SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.78 to -0.09; 2 studies, 147 participants and 12 months: SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.69 to 0.00; 2 studies, 147 participants) and drug use (6 months: SMD -0.31, 95% CI -0.66 to 0.04; 2 studies, 141 participants and 12 months: SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.69 to 0.01; 2 studies, 141 participants).

Authors' Conclusions: We found moderate-quality evidence that psychosocial interventions probably reduce the frequency at which parents use alcohol and drugs. Integrated psychosocial interventions which combine parenting skills interventions with a substance use component may show the most promise. Whilst it appears that mothers may benefit less than fathers from intervention, caution is advised in the interpretation of this evidence, as the interventions provided to mothers alone typically did not address their substance use and other related needs. We found low-quality evidence from few studies that interventions involving children are not beneficial.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD012823.pub2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8094759PMC
March 2021

Reduction in the population prevalence of hepatitis C virus viraemia among people who inject drugs associated with scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral therapy in community drug services: real-world data.

Addiction 2021 Oct 5;116(10):2893-2907. Epub 2021 May 5.

Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK.

Background And Aims: There has been little empirical evidence to show the 'real-world' impact of scaling-up direct-acting anti-viral (DAA) treatment among people who inject drugs (PWID) on hepatitis C virus (HCV) viraemia at a population level. We aimed to assess the population impact of rapid DAA scale-up to PWID delivered through community services-including drug treatment, pharmacies, needle exchanges and prisons-in the Tayside region of Scotland, compared with Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) and the Rest of Scotland (RoS).

Design, Setting And Participants: Natural experiment, evaluated using data from national biennial surveys of PWID and national clinical data. Services providing injecting equipment (2010-18) and HCV treatment clinics (2017-18) across Scotland. A total of 12 492 PWID who completed a questionnaire and provided a blood spot (tested for HCV-antibodies and RNA); 4105 individuals who initiated HCV treatment.

Intervention And Comparator, Measurements: The intervention was rapid DAA scale-up among PWID, which occurred in Tayside. The comparator was GGC/RoS. Trends in HCV viraemia and uptake of HCV therapy over time; sustained viral response (SVR) rates to therapy by region and treatment setting.

Findings: Uptake of HCV therapy (last year) among PWID between 2013-14 and 2017-18 increased from 15 to 43% in Tayside, 6 to 16% in GGC and 11 to 23% in RoS. Between 2010 and 2017-18, the prevalence of HCV viraemia (among antibody-positives) declined from 73 to 44% in Tayside, 67 to 58% in GGC and 64 to 55% in RoS. The decline in viraemia was greater in Tayside [2017-18 adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.30-0.75, P = 0.001] than elsewhere in Scotland (2017-18 aOR = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.74-1.07, P = 0.220) relative to the baseline of 2013-14 in RoS (including GGC). Per-protocol SVR rates among PWID treated in community sites did not differ from those treated in hospital sites in Tayside (97.4 versus 100.0%, P = 0.099).

Conclusions: Scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral treatment among people who inject drugs can be achieved through hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment in community drug services while maintaining high sustained viral response rates and, in the Tayside region of Scotland, has led to a substantial reduction in chronic HCV in the population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15459DOI Listing
October 2021

Reduction in the population prevalence of hepatitis C virus viraemia among people who inject drugs associated with scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral therapy in community drug services: real-world data.

Addiction 2021 Oct 5;116(10):2893-2907. Epub 2021 May 5.

Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK.

Background And Aims: There has been little empirical evidence to show the 'real-world' impact of scaling-up direct-acting anti-viral (DAA) treatment among people who inject drugs (PWID) on hepatitis C virus (HCV) viraemia at a population level. We aimed to assess the population impact of rapid DAA scale-up to PWID delivered through community services-including drug treatment, pharmacies, needle exchanges and prisons-in the Tayside region of Scotland, compared with Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) and the Rest of Scotland (RoS).

Design, Setting And Participants: Natural experiment, evaluated using data from national biennial surveys of PWID and national clinical data. Services providing injecting equipment (2010-18) and HCV treatment clinics (2017-18) across Scotland. A total of 12 492 PWID who completed a questionnaire and provided a blood spot (tested for HCV-antibodies and RNA); 4105 individuals who initiated HCV treatment.

Intervention And Comparator, Measurements: The intervention was rapid DAA scale-up among PWID, which occurred in Tayside. The comparator was GGC/RoS. Trends in HCV viraemia and uptake of HCV therapy over time; sustained viral response (SVR) rates to therapy by region and treatment setting.

Findings: Uptake of HCV therapy (last year) among PWID between 2013-14 and 2017-18 increased from 15 to 43% in Tayside, 6 to 16% in GGC and 11 to 23% in RoS. Between 2010 and 2017-18, the prevalence of HCV viraemia (among antibody-positives) declined from 73 to 44% in Tayside, 67 to 58% in GGC and 64 to 55% in RoS. The decline in viraemia was greater in Tayside [2017-18 adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.30-0.75, P = 0.001] than elsewhere in Scotland (2017-18 aOR = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.74-1.07, P = 0.220) relative to the baseline of 2013-14 in RoS (including GGC). Per-protocol SVR rates among PWID treated in community sites did not differ from those treated in hospital sites in Tayside (97.4 versus 100.0%, P = 0.099).

Conclusions: Scale-up of direct-acting anti-viral treatment among people who inject drugs can be achieved through hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment in community drug services while maintaining high sustained viral response rates and, in the Tayside region of Scotland, has led to a substantial reduction in chronic HCV in the population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15459DOI Listing
October 2021

Understanding adolescent health risk behaviour and socioeconomic position: A grounded theory study of UK young adults.

Sociol Health Illn 2021 Feb 26;43(2):528-544. Epub 2021 Feb 26.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Health risk behaviours such as tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, unhealthy diet and unprotected sexual intercourse contribute to the global burden of non-communicable diseases and are often initiated in adolescence. An individualistic focus on 'health risk behaviours' has resulted in behaviour change strategies that are potentially ineffective and increase inequalities. We conducted a grounded theory study of 25 young adults to increase the limited qualitative evidence base surrounding young people, health risk behaviours and socioeconomic inequalities. We found that health risk behaviours were perceived as class markers, manifesting as class stigma, leading some participants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to employ strategies to avoid such behaviours. Peers and family were core constructs for understanding the relationship between health risk behaviours and socioeconomic life trajectories. However, individualism and choice were consistently expressed as the overriding narrative for understanding health risk behaviour and socioeconomic position during the transition to adulthood. The use of 'personal responsibility' discourse by young adults, we argue, highlights the need for a public health focus on achieving structural changes as opposed to individualised approaches to avoid reinforcing neoliberal ideologies that serve to marginalise and maintain social inequalities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.13240DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8168338PMC
February 2021

Testing the association between tobacco and cannabis use and cognitive functioning: Findings from an observational and Mendelian randomization study.

Drug Alcohol Depend 2021 04 12;221:108591. Epub 2021 Feb 12.

School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TU, UK; MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK; National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. Electronic address:

Background: Although studies have examined the association between tobacco and cannabis use in adolescence with subsequent cognitive functioning, study designs are usually not able to distinguish correlation from causation.

Methods: Separate patterns of tobacco and cannabis use were derived using longitudinal latent class analysis based on measures assessed on five occasions from age 13-18 in a large UK population cohort (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). Cognitive functioning measures comprised of working memory, response inhibition, and emotion recognition assessed at 24 years of age. Mendelian randomization was used to examine the possible causal relationship between smoking initiation, lifetime cannabis use and cognitive functioning.

Results: We found evidence of a relationship between tobacco and cannabis use and diminished cognitive functioning for each of the outcomes in the observational analyses. There was evidence to suggest that late-onset regular tobacco smokers (b=-0.29, 95 %CI=-0.45 to -0.13), early-onset regular tobacco smokers (b=-0.45, 95 %CI=-0.84 to -0.05), and early-onset regular cannabis users (b=-0.62, 95 %CI=-0.93 to -0.31) showed poorer working memory. Early-onset regular tobacco smokers (b = 0.18, 95 %CI = 0.07 to 0.28), and early-onset regular cannabis users (b = 0.30, 95 %CI = 0.08 to 0.52) displayed poorer ability to inhibit responses. Late-onset regular (b=-0.02, 95 %CI=-0.03 to - 0.00), and early-onset regular tobacco smokers (b=-0.04, 95 %CI=-0.08 to -0.01) showed poorer ability to recognise emotions. Mendelian randomization analyses were imprecise and did not provide additional support for the observational results.

Conclusion: There was some evidence to suggest that adolescent tobacco and cannabis use were associated with deficits in working memory, response inhibition and emotion recognition. Better powered genetic studies are required to determine whether these associations are causal.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108591DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8047806PMC
April 2021

Conceptualising natural and quasi experiments in public health.

BMC Med Res Methodol 2021 02 11;21(1):32. Epub 2021 Feb 11.

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Bristol, UK.

Background: Natural or quasi experiments are appealing for public health research because they enable the evaluation of events or interventions that are difficult or impossible to manipulate experimentally, such as many policy and health system reforms. However, there remains ambiguity in the literature about their definition and how they differ from randomized controlled experiments and from other observational designs. We conceptualise natural experiments in the context of public health evaluations and align the study design to the Target Trial Framework.

Methods: A literature search was conducted, and key methodological papers were used to develop this work. Peer-reviewed papers were supplemented by grey literature.

Results: Natural experiment studies (NES) combine features of experiments and non-experiments. They differ from planned experiments, such as randomized controlled trials, in that exposure allocation is not controlled by researchers. They differ from other observational designs in that they evaluate the impact of events or process that leads to differences in exposure. As a result they are, in theory, less susceptible to bias than other observational study designs. Importantly, causal inference relies heavily on the assumption that exposure allocation can be considered 'as-if randomized'. The target trial framework provides a systematic basis for evaluating this assumption and the other design elements that underpin the causal claims that can be made from NES.

Conclusions: NES should be considered a type of study design rather than a set of tools for analyses of non-randomized interventions. Alignment of NES to the Target Trial framework will clarify the strength of evidence underpinning claims about the effectiveness of public health interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12874-021-01224-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7879679PMC
February 2021

Testing the validity of national drug surveys: comparison between a general population cohort and household surveys.

Addiction 2021 08 17;116(8):2076-2083. Epub 2021 Jan 17.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Background And Aims: There are concerns that national population-based estimates of illicit drug use are underestimated. We investigated this by comparing estimates of illicit substance use at age 24 from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) with a birth cohort (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, ALSPAC) and by comparing the Smoking and Alcohol Toolkit Studies (STS/ATS) to ALSPAC.

Design: Cross-sectional household survey and cross-sectional data from one wave of a longitudinal birth cohort.

Setting: England and Wales.

Participants: Young adults aged 23-25 reporting on substance use in 2017 to CSEW (n = 1165), ALSPAC (n = 3389) and STS/ATS (n = 950).

Measurements: Lifetime and past-year illicit drug use, smoking status and hazardous drinking at age 24.

Findings: The 2017 CSEW estimate of lifetime illicit drug use was 40.6%, compared with 62.8% in ALSPAC (risk difference % [RD%] = 22.2%; 95% CI = 18.9-25.5%; P ≤ 0.001). The RD in lifetime use between ALSPAC and the CSEW was 23.2% (95% CI = 20.0-26.4%) for cannabis, 16.9% (95% CI = 14.4-19.4%) for powder cocaine and 24.8% (95% CI = 22.6-27.0%) for amphetamine. Past-year drug use was 16.4% in CSEW, compared with 36.7% in ALSPAC (RD% = 20.3%; 95% CI = 17.6-23.0%; P ≤ 0.001). For past-year substance use, the RD between ALSPAC and the CSEW was 15.4% (95% CI = 12.9-17.9%) for cannabis, 14.8% (95% CI = 13.0%-16.6%) for powder cocaine and 15.9% (95% CI = 14.5-17.4%) for amphetamine. Levels of current smoking were similar between STS (27.4%) and ALSPAC (29.4%). Hazardous drinking was substantially higher in ALSPAC (60.3%) than the ATS (32.1%; RD% = 28.2%; 95% CI = 24.8-31.6%; P ≤ 0.001).

Conclusions: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children provides one source of validation for measurements of drug use in government household surveys and indicates that illicit drug use may be underestimated in the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8359398PMC
August 2021

Qualitative Evaluation of Web-Based Digital Intervention to Prevent and Reduce Excessive Alcohol Use and Harm Among Young People Aged 14-15 Years: A "Think-Aloud" Study.

JMIR Pediatr Parent 2020 Dec 15;3(2):e19749. Epub 2020 Dec 15.

Department of Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.

Background: In the United Kingdom, despite some downward trends in alcohol use among young people, over one-fifth of young people reported excessive alcohol use in the past month, which is associated with short- and long-term harm to health. Digital interventions to reduce alcohol use, such as websites, among young people present an appealing and cost-effective mode of intervention that can be integrated into the education system. However, relatively few school-based digital alcohol-focused interventions have been developed and evaluated for young people in the United Kingdom.

Objective: This study aims to develop a novel web-based intervention, Rethink Alcohol, to prevent and reduce excessive alcohol use and related harm among young people aged between 14 and 15 years, and explore the views of young people, teachers, and youth workers in relation to the content, design, and usability of the intervention.

Methods: Intervention development followed the person-based approach, using theories of social norms and social influence. Qualitative "Think-Aloud" interviews, either one-to-one or paired, were conducted while participants perused and worked through the web-based intervention, talking aloud. Participants included 20 young people (12 female, 8 male), 5 youth workers (4 female, 1 male), 3 teachers (2 male, 1 female), and 1 (male) clinical professional, recruited via youth groups and professional networks. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically.

Results: The prototype web-based intervention included normative feedback, information, a quiz, interactive activities, and scenarios. On a rating scale of impressions from poor (1) to excellent (5), participants gave an average score of 3.6/5. A total of 5 themes were identified: content, credibility of the website, making the website easy to understand, design and navigation, and suitability for the audience. These themes reflected views that the content was interesting, credible, informative, and embodied a neutral and nonjudgmental tone, but stronger messaging was needed regarding social pressures and short-term risks regarding safety and risk behavior alongside clarity around pathways of risk; credibility and trustworthiness of information were critical features, determined in part, by the professionalism of design and referencing of sources of information provided; and messages should be succinct and come to life through design and interactive features.

Conclusions: Together, the data illustrated the importance and challenge of communicating nuanced alcohol-focused public health messages to young people in concise, clear, nonjudgmental, and appealing ways. Young people report interest in clear, credible, neutral, and interactive messages regarding social pressures and short-term risks of alcohol use via a web-based intervention. There is scope for optimization and feasibility testing of the Rethink Alcohol intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/19749DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7772065PMC
December 2020
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