Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 39-45

The journey of opioid substitution therapy in India: Achievements and challenges

National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Ravindra Rao
Department of Psychiatry, National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_37_17

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Opioids are one of the most problematic illegal substances globally. Opioid abuse is associated with complications in various spheres of the user's life, his/her family, and the society. Injecting drug use (IDU) is also linked to public health problems such as HIV infection and viral hepatitis. Medications form an important cornerstone in the treatment of opioid dependence. Treatment strategies such as “detoxification” alone or long-term treatment with opioid antagonist have limited acceptability and retention rates. Opioid substitution therapy (OST) has demonstrated better retention rates than other existing treatment strategies and helps improve the individual's functioning as well as his/her quality of life. The use of OST in India spans three decades, with initial use of low-dose buprenorphine followed by higher strength buprenorphine and buprenorphine-naloxone. Other medications such as slow-release oral morphine, and recently, methadone have also been introduced. Indian research also confirms the findings from Western literature on the effectiveness as well as acceptability of this treatment modality. OST received its biggest thrust when it became a part of the National AIDS Control Programme. In recent years, the number of OST centers in India has increased manifold. Practice guidelines, standard operating procedures, and capacity-building mechanisms have been put in place for effective OST implementation. Despite such widespread use, many challenges exist for OST implementation. The targets for ensuring adequate coverage of the population with this treatment are still far away. There is concern of OST being branded as a “harm reduction” intervention reserved only for injecting drug users. Despite three decades of advancements, certain sections of policymakers and practitioners still have reservations with this treatment modality. There is a need to overcome these barriers for OST to become easily accessible to those who need it.



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