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Open Access Research article

The Edinburgh Addiction Cohort: recruitment and follow-up of a primary care based sample of injection drug users and non drug-injecting controls

John Macleod1, Lorraine Copeland2, Matthew Hickman1, James McKenzie2, Jo Kimber13, Daniela De Angelis4 and James R Robertson2*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol, BS8 2PS, UK

2 Muirhouse Medical Group, 1 Muirhouse Avenue, Edinburgh, EH4 4PL, UK

3 National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia

4 MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2SR, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-101

Published: 26 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Injection drug use is an important public health problem. Epidemiological understanding of this problem is incomplete as longitudinal studies in the general population are difficult to undertake. In particular little is known about early life risk factors for later drug injection or about the life course of injection once established including the influence of medical and social interventions.

Methods

Individuals thought to be drug injectors were identified through a single primary medical care facility in Edinburgh between 1980 and 2006 and flagged with the General Registry Office. From October 2005 - October 2007, these cases were traced and invited to undergo interview assessment covering early life experience, substance use, health and social histories. Age and sex matched controls for confirmed cases (alive and dead) were later recruited through the same health facility. Controls for living cases completed the same structured interview schedule. Data were also collected on cases and controls through linkage to routine primary care records, death registrations, hospital contact statistics and police and prison records. All interviews were conducted with the knowledge and permission of the current GP.

Results

The initial cohort size was 814. At start of follow up 227 had died. Of the remaining 587: 20 had no contact details and 5 had embarked from the UK; 40 declined participation; 38 did not respond to invitations; 14 were excluded by their GP on health or social grounds and 22 had their contact details withheld by administrative authorities. 448 were interviewed of whom 16 denied injection and were excluded. Of 191 dead cases with medical records 4 were excluded as their records contained no evidence of injection. 5 interviewed cases died before follow up was concluded though these individuals were counted as "live" cases. 1 control per case (dead and alive) was recruited. Linkage to Scottish Morbidity Records data (available from 1981 onwards) on general acute inpatient and day cases, mental health inpatient and day cases and cancer was provided by Information Services, NHS Scotland, for all cases interviewed and all dead cases. The Scottish Prison Service provided records for 198 (46%) of cases interviewed, 48 cases not interviewed and 34 (18%) of dead cases. For a sub-sample of 100 interviewees a search of the Lothian and Borders police database was made for official criminal records and 94 had criminal records. Data linkage for controls is ongoing.

Conclusions

Injecting drug users recruited from a community setting can be successfully followed-up through interviews and record linkage. Information from injecting cases is being analysed in terms of injecting patterns and possible influences on these. Comparisons between cases and controls will allow identification of possibly modifiable early life risk factors for drug injection and will also clarify the burden of disease associated with injection and the influence on this of different health and social interventions.