Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Illicit drug use is a multifaceted public-health problem with potentially serious impacts. The United Kingdom has one of the highest prevalence of illegal drug use in Europe. Reduction of overall illegal drug use in England and Wales has decreased from 11% to 8.2% (2012/13) over the past 10 years. People who use drugs often seek help from their family doctors. Aims: To investigate General Practitioners (family doctors) first recording of drug use and opioid substitute treatment in primary care settings. Design: A descriptive study design. Males and females (16-64 years old) were extracted from The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database. Setting: England and Wales primary care. Method The first recording of drug use and opioid substitution treatment in primary care was estimated for the period (1994-2012). Poisson regressions were conducted to estimate incidence risk ratios (IRR). Results We identified 33,508 first recordings of drug use and 10,869 individuals with prescriptions for opioid substitute treatment. Overall, males (IRR 2.02, 95% CI:1.97–2.07), people in the age-group; 16-24 (IRR 6.7, 95% CI:6.4–6.9) compared to those over 25 years and the most deprived (IRR 4.2, 95% CI:3.9–4.4) were more likely to have a recording of drug use. Males (IRR 1.2 95% CI:1.2–1.3), in the age-group; 25-34 (IRR 1.8 95% CI:1.7–1.9) and the most deprived (IRR 3.9 95% CI:3.6–4.3) were the groups more likely to have a opioid substitute treatment prescription. Conclusion It is evident from this study that there is little recording of drug use and opioid substitute treatment in primary care. Most drug users do not receive treatment in primary care.

More information




Publication Date



10(4) e0122626. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122626