Methadone maintenance therapy outcomes in Iran

Roya Noori, Homan Narenjiha, Habibollah Aghabakhshi, Gholamreza Habibi, Babak Khoshkrood Mansoori
Substance Use & Misuse 2012, 47 (7): 767-73

INTRODUCTION: Because of the increasing number of injecting drug users (IDUs) in Iran and the risk of the spread of HIV infection, harm reduction programs have been considered for conventional law enforcement measures. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) in IDUs and the associated health and social outcomes.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: This case-control study was conducted at the Persepolis Harm Reduction Center in Tehran during the year 2006. Data were gathered from two groups of randomly chosen patients. The first group consisted of 75 IDU patients who had undergone at least 6 months of methadone treatment (the MMT group), and second group consisted of 75 newly admitted clients (the control group). Participants were assessed on their dangerous injection and sexual behaviors, social well-being, and patterns of drug use. The results were compared between the two groups.

RESULTS: The mean age of participants in the two groups was almost the same (34.28 years in the control group and 35.68 years in the MMT group, p >.05). Prevalence of drug injection in the MMT group was less than that in the control group (16% vs. 100%). There was also a dramatic difference in needle and syringe sharing (40% in the control group vs. 4% in the MMT group) but not in crimes and arrests (p = .4). Those in the MMT group had a better relationship with their families, partners, coworkers, and neighbors compared with controls. There was no considerable difference in dangerous sexual behaviors between the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the large number of HIV-positive cases among IDUs and considering that injection drug use is the main spreading factor for HIV, MMT would play a major role in controlling the HIV epidemic through reduction of heroin injection and the risk behaviors related to it. High inflation rate, lack of interorganization coordination, budget limitation, and no follow-up were the most important limitations of this study.

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