Spatiotemporal patterns of drug use disorder in Sweden assessed using population-based registries

Kathleen Stewart, Kenneth S. Kendler, Anton Westholm, Henrik Ohlsson, Jan Sundquist, Kristina Sundquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Drug Use Disorder (DUD) is a major contributor to world-wide morbidity and mortality. The extensive national registers in Sweden provide the basis for a study of spatial and temporal patterns of DUD onset and recurrence in Sweden from 2001–2015. Methods: To identify patterns of DUD over space, time and gender for Swedish individuals aged 15–35, space–time clustering using SaTScan was applied. We used yearly information on residential locations in Demographic Statistical Areas (DeSO) for all of Sweden. The clustering analysis used a Poisson probability model and a null hypothesis that the expected number of cases in each DeSO was proportional to the population size of DeSOs. As SaTScan results can be unstable, steps were taken to determine stable clusters and to refine and optimize cluster size. Results for each gender-register combination were compared to the results of spatial clustering using Gi* statistics. The space–time scanning model was also run with an adjustment for neighborhood socioeconomic status to determine DUD prevalence as it relates to education, income, unemployment and receipt of social welfare. Results: DUD prevalence increased over time. Males yielded more significant clusters than females for both criminal and medical registers. Female DUD prevalence rates increased over time, especially after 2012. Higher correlations in DUD rates existed across the two registers than across gender. Male clusters were present from 2004 onwards while female–criminal clusters appeared after 2007, and female–medical clusters not until 2010. By 2013, clusters existed for all gender–register combinations. Male–criminal clusters were concentrated in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö as were male and female-medical clusters. Neighborhood SES was more highly related to the distribution of criminal than medical DUD clusters. A persistent gap in core clusters was identified in Stockholm in an area with notably high SES. Conclusions: Persistent hotspots of DUD in Sweden were confirmed as well as new and emerging hotspots, especially in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. Higher correlations existed in DUD rates across registers than across gender. The findings are useful for monitoring the current drug problem and for identifying drivers underlying patterns of spread and important causal pathways to DUD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number266
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Drug use disorder
  • Geographic patterns
  • SaTScan
  • Spatiotemporal clustering
  • Substance use


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