Durban demonstration outcomes beneficial for drug users

By Time of article published Jun 28, 2016

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Durban - The Durban demonstration project involving 50 local drug users will show that Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) is cost effective, Professor Monique Marks, the head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology said on Monday.

It will also show that it “was extremely beneficial” leading to an improvement of the quality of life of problematic drug users “and that it is feasible to roll out OST in the public sector”.

Marks was clarifying a report about the project in Monday's Daily News, which said that the 50 drug users would be taking part in pioneering substitution therapy trials using methadone to help wean them off whoonga/heroin.

The project, due to start in October was not a trial, she said. It was a demonstration project – because methadone had been tried and tested for some 30 years, she explained. It was effective and safe and was used in about 90 countries.

“The goal of the hoped for rollout is to get users into a less harmful use of drugs and where possible, to abstain from drugs.

“This might mean that for some users, methadone will be used for life, which is why in countries such as Portugal there are methadone maintenance programmes.

“This is because problematic drug use is recognised as a chronic illness which requires the availability of chronic medication, in this case opioid substitution medication.”

Marks said on Sunday during the sidelines of a “Support, Don’t Punish” campaign that various government departments would be looking at the outcomes of the 18-month project, and the hope was that OST would be rolled out at government hospitals.

The pilot project would be conducted by the Urban Futures Centre – which co-ordinates the KZN Harm Reduction Advocacy Group-and the TB/HIV Care Association.

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