New South Wales (NSW) Opioid Dependence Survey: Gaining knowledge on people with opioid dependence in NSW

November 2023
Project description: 

The NSW Opioid Dependence Survey aims to improve services for individuals with opioid dependence in New South Wales. This cross-sectional cohort study plans to include approximately 400 participants meeting the following criteria: 18 years or older, willing to provide informed consent, and currently on Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) or dependent on non-prescribed pharmaceutical opioids and/or heroin. Data will be securely collected using REDCap, ensuring participant anonymity. Optional data linkage will explore health and incarceration data. Data analysis will involve statistical software packages like Stata, R, or SAS to investigate socio-demographic profiles, psycho-social characteristics, and opioid use patterns. The study is expected to span 12 to 24 months, from ethics approval to findings preparation.


Cost-effective treatments like Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) have been proven to significantly reduce harm associated with opioid dependence, reducing the risk of death for individuals receiving OAT compared to those without it. However, barriers to OAT access and treatment engagement challenges persist among people with opioid dependence, limiting the potential benefits. Further research is needed to enhance access to effective treatment and harm reduction services for addressing opioid dependence-related harm on a global and Australian scale. In New South Wales (NSW), the Opioid Agonist Treatment and Safety (OATS) Study, based on administrative data from 2002 to 2017, has provided valuable insights into various aspects of opioid dependence. However, relying solely on administrative data has limitations, as it may underestimate the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders and lacks critical variables related to OAT dosing, barriers, and facilitators that can inform better services for opioid-dependent individuals.


  • Investigate sociodemographic and psycho-social profiles of individuals with opioid dependence who are in and out of treatment in NSW;
  • Analyse the influence of mental disorders, childhood trauma, and incarceration on opioid use patterns and treatment access for these individuals; 
  • Examine opioid usage trends, polydrug use, injection risks, and overdose experiences among individuals with opioid dependence who are in and out of treatment in NSW; 
  • Identify treatment barriers and facilitators for individuals with opioid dependence, mental disorders, and injectionrelated issues, particularly for those out of treatment. 

Design and Method 

This cross-sectional cohort study aims to include around 400 individuals with opioid dependence, gathering data on various psycho-social characteristics, experiences, and knowledge relevant to opioid dependence treatment and common comorbidities. The survey covers aspects like socio-demographics, substance use history, treatment preferences, quality of life, mental health, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), harm reduction services, overdose history, incarceration and arrest, and physical health. Recruitment efforts will focus on increasing the representation of individuals not in Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT). Data collection methods include face-to-face, online, or phone interviews, each expected to take one to one and a half hours. Comprehensive interviewer training ensures participant safety, and consent for data linkage will be sought. Participants will receive a $40 AUD reimbursement. Data collection is anticipated to take at least six months, with analysis lasting 12 to 24 months. Participants can withdraw consent at any time without affecting their relationship with health services or UNSW.

Now recruiting. Call 0449 939 663 or email for more information.

Read more here.