Variations in treatment organisation, practices and outcomes within the Norwegian Opioid Maintenance Treatment Programme

Linn Gjersing, Helge Waal, Jo Røislien, Michael Gossop, Thomas Clausen

Abstract


Variations within and between opioid maintenance programmes have been identified in other countries such as US and the UK. The aim of this study was to assess possible differences in treatment organisation, practices and outcomes between 14 regional centres within the Norwegian Opioid Maintenance Treatment programme, which were subject to the same government standards. This was a national ecological study conducted in November 2008 in Norway. Marked variations between the centres in caseload, choice of agonists, prescribing doctor, as well as in the use of supervised dispensing and urine drug screening were found. Only prescribed agonist dose was consistent across all centres. Centres in which patients had more illicit drug use had fewer patients with long-term living arrangements, more unemployment, and more patients who reported social security benefits as main income. The differences occurred despite government regulations, policies and guidelines, and frequent national meetings between centre managers. These findings show how government standards may be interpreted and implemented differently

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