Opioid agonist therapy (OAT) has been implemented for the treatment of individuals with opioid use disorders in Lebanon since 2011, but has not been evaluated yet. The aim of the study is to describe the implementation of the first pilot OAT program in Lebanon from the users’ perspective.
Data collectors gathered data from male participants during June 2016-July 2016. Eighty-one out of 94 patients agreed to participate in the study. Data regarding access to treatment, satisfaction with the treatment protocol and treatment outcomes, patient-provider relationship, and misuse and diversion was collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews. Data saturation was reached after 81 interviews; once no new themes were reported.
Findings showed inequalities in access to treatment and showed that OAT improved mental and social wellbeing among users who had financial access and complied with the program protocols. Registering in the program protected users from arrest and reduced their economic burden. Among the main encountered challenges were fear of dependence to buprenorphine, restricted geographical access to treatment, misuse and diversion of buprenorphine.
Results implicate inequalities in access to OAT as one important gap to be tackled in the management of OAT in Lebanon. Further research should be done in order to understand the challenges in the implementation of the program from the providers’ perspectives.