Experiences in managing problematic crystal methamphetamine use and associated depression in gay men and HIV positive men: in-depth interviews with general practitioners in Sydney, Australia
Saltman, Deborah C
Newman, Christy E
Kippax, Susan C
Kidd, Michael Richard
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Background This paper describes the experiences of Australian general practitioners (GPs) in managing problematic crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth) use among two groups of male patients: gay men and HIV positive men. Methods Semi-structured qualitative interviews with GPs with HIV medication prescribing rights were conducted in Sydney, Adelaide and a rural-coastal town in New South Wales between August and October 2006. Participants were recruited from practices with high caseloads of gay and HIV positive men. Results Sixteen GPs were recruited from seven practices to take part in interviews. Participants included 14 male GPs and two female GPs, and the number of years each had been working in HIV medicine ranged from two to 24. Eleven of the GPs who were based in Sydney raised the issue of problematic crystal meth use in these two patient populations. Five key themes were identified: an increasing problem; associations with depression; treatment challenges; health services and health care; workforce issues. Conclusion Despite study limitations, key implications can be identified. Health practitioners may benefit from broadening their understandings of how to anticipate and respond to problematic levels of crystal meth use in their patients. Early intervention can mitigate the impact of crystal meth use on co-morbid mental illness and other health issues. Management of the complex relationships between drug use, depression, sexuality and HIV can be addressed following a 'stepped care' approach. General practice guidelines for the management of crystal meth use problems should address specific issues associated with gay men and HIV positive men. GPs and other health practitioners must appreciate drug use as a social practice in order to build trust with gay men to encourage full disclosure of drug use. Education programs should train health practitioners in these issues, and increased resourcing provided to support the often difficult task of caring for people who use crystal meth. Greater resourcing of acute care and referral services can shift the burden away from primary care and community services. Further investigation should consider whether these findings are reproducible in other general practice settings, the relationship between depression, drug use and HIV medication, and challenges facing the HIV general practice workforce in Australia.
© 2008 Saltman et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.