Western Australia remote aeromedical substance use disorders outcomes

Nicholas Faint, Mathew Coleman, Breeanna Spring, Alice Richardson, Ashleigh Thornton, Donna Bacon, Santharajah Kumaradevan, Fergus W. Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Substance use disorders (SUDs) cause significant harm to regional Australians, who are more likely to misuse alcohol and other drugs (AODs) and encounter difficulty in accessing treatment services. The primary aims of this study were to describe the demographics of patients aeromedically retrieved from regional locations and compare hospital outcomes with a metropolitan-based cohort. Aims: Retrospective case-controlled cohort study. Participants were aeromedically retrieved within Western Australia for SUDs between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2019. Retrieved patients were case-matched based on age and hospital discharge diagnosis. Descriptive statistics and χ2 analysis were used to summarise the findings. Results: One hundred thirty-six (91.3%) aeromedical retrievals were found, with the majority being male (n = 95; 69.9%). These were case-matched to 427 metropolitan patients, the majority male (n = 321; 75.2%). Retrieved patients were more likely (all P < 0.05) Indigenous (odds ratio [OR], 9.35 [95% confidence interval (CI), 5.96–14.85]), unemployed (OR, 2.9 [95% CI, 1.41–6.80]), referred to a tertiary hospital (OR, 2.18 [95% CI, 1.24–3.86]) and to stay longer in hospital (OR, 1.08 [95% CI, 1.02–1.14]). Discussion: Findings highlight that unmarried and/or unemployed males were overrepresented in the retrieval group, with over half identifying as Indigenous. Regional variation in retrievals was noted, while amphetamine-type stimulants featured prominently in the retrieval cohort, who experienced longer hospital stays and more restrictive treatment. Conclusions: Comparing clinical outcomes for retrieved regional patients experiencing SUDs, service design and delivery should focus on offering culturally safe care for Indigenous people, catering for regional health care catchment areas, while ideally adopting collaborative and integrated approaches between AODs and mental health services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86 - 95
Number of pages10
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Issue number1
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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