Objectives: The objectives of the study were to identify the characteristics of the patients who were commenced in a newly developed opiate substitute prescribing (OSP) programme, to determine their rate of retention and to ascertain the patients' opinions of the service. We also wished to determine rates of blood borne viruses in this population.
Methods: Data were collected from three sources: the Shaftesbury Square Hospital Substitute Prescribing Database, patient charts and an anonymous user views questionnaire. We also conducted viral screening. Inclusion criteria were opiate dependence according to ICD-101 for at least one year, in individuals who were 18 years of age or older. The sample comprised the first 80 patients who attended the service, who were followed up over two years.
Results: A total of 44% of our original cohort remained engaged with the service two years after commencement. Of the remainder, 18% engaged with OSP elsewhere and 13% completed a successful detoxification from all opiate drug use. Factors which were associated with continuation in the programme were prescription of methadone (as compared with buprenorphine), female sex and higher doses of OSP. Patients reported high levels of satisfaction with the service. Of those who were tested for blood borne viruses, more than half were positive for hepatitis C infection.
Conclusions: The response to the development of the opiate substitution programme demonstrated that there was a need in the community which had not been met in the past. Service users who attended the programme reported high levels of satisfaction.