Opioid agonist therapy (OAT) models are generally provided without consideration of how pre-treatment characteristics may be associated with outcome. Therefore, we aimed to first characterize longitudinal trajectories of opioid use before initiating OAT. Then we explored the impact of OAT on opioid use across these pre-treatment trajectories.
Data were derived from three prospective cohort studies involving people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada. Latent class growth analysis was applied to identify opioid use trajectories based on individual-level observations three years before starting OAT. Multivariable generalized linear mixed model was used to examine whether engaging in OAT was associated with lower risk of illicit opioid use among participants with different pre-treatment opioid use trajectories.
464 participants were included in the study between September 2005 and November 2018. Two pre-treatment opioid use trajectories were identified: high frequency users (246, 53.0%) and gradually increasing frequency users (218, 47.0%). We observed different strengths of association between OAT engagement and illicit opioid use among high frequency users (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.36, 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 0.20 – 0.63) and gradually increasing frequency users (AOR = 0.91, 95% CI: 0.53 – 1.56). Unstable housing, any stimulant use, experiencing violence, drug dealing, sex work involvement, and incarceration were independently and positively associated with ongoing illicit opioid use.
Distinct pre-treatment opioid use trajectories are likely to influence treatment outcomes. Research is required to determine if tailored strategies specific to people with different pre-treatment opioid use patterns have potential to improve outcomes of OAT.

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