How is AOD treatment intensity defined?

Defining treatment intensity using the AODTS NMDS

Previous AIHW analysis in 2019 established criteria for clients receiving intensive AOD treatment, based on the number of episodes that a client received and the number of years over which they received treatment (AIHW 2019).

The rationale for defining AOD treatment intensity was based on the understanding that:

  • treatment experiences vary among individuals; and
  • there is a subset of clients which engages with AOD treatment services more regularly than others, and therefore has a higher level of contact with the sector over time (AIHW 2019; Kelly & White 2011).

This report further examines how characteristics of AOD clients and the treatment they received varies by treatment intensity, focusing on the 648,400 treatment episodes provided to the 228,500 clients who received AOD treatment between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2021.

The three cohorts were defined as follows:

  • intensive treatment – clients who received 11 or more closed treatment episodes for their own alcohol or other drug use, across at least 3 collection periods (that is, financial years)
  • recurring treatment – clients who received fewer than 11 closed treatment episodes for their own alcohol or other drug use across at least 3 collection periods
  • non-recurring treatment – clients who received treatment for their own alcohol or other drug use in fewer than 3 collection periods.

For further information on the methodology used to define these cohorts, please see Technical notes: Defining treatment intensity using the AODTS NMDS.

It is important to note that this report refers to clients in each cohort as well as closed treatment episodes provided to clients in each cohort. In examining the likelihood of reason for cessation of treatment and other treatment characteristics, all episodes provided to each client over the course of their treatment are considered.

For example, where a client receiving intensive treatment received 11 treatment episodes over the course of 3 collection periods, each episode’s reason for cessation is counted separately towards the intensive treatment cohort.

How many clients and treatment episodes were in each treatment cohort?

Table 5 and Figure 2 illustrate the numbers of clients in each cohort and treatment episodes provided to these clients. While clients receiving intensive treatment represented less than 1 in 20 (3.1%)clients who sought AOD treatment between 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2021, 1 in 5  (20% episodes treating alcohol; 18% episodes treating amphetamines) treatment episodes were provided to this cohort.

Figure 1: Analysis criteria of clients and treatment episodes by treatment intensity, 2013–14 to 2020–21

This figure shows the number of episodes and clients included in this report, including episodes excluded based on analysis criteria. 1,632,940 episodes provided to clients who received treatment between July 1 2013 and June 30 2021. 1,548,575 episodes were provided for clients’ own AOD use; 84,365 episodes excluded as they were provided for other’s AOD use. 1,083,664 episodes had a valid first appearance and treatment type; 464,911 episodes were excluded as the client first appeared in 2019 or 2020, was referred from another service in 2013–14, or had a main treatment of assessment only. 1,082,268 episodes were provided to male or female clients aged over 10; 1,396 episodes excluded as clients’ sex was missing/other or age was missing/unknown. 433,887 episodes excluded with a principal drug of concern other than alcohol or amphetamines. Of the remaining episodes, 7,089 clients receiving intensive treatment received 77,800 episodes treating alcohol and 46,540 episodes treating amphetamines; 33,912 clients receiving recurring treatment received 103,410 episodes treating alcohol and 92,438 episodes treating amphetamines. 187,487 clients receiving non-recurring treatment received 203,760 episodes treating alcohol and 124,433 episodes treating amphetamines.