Standards for Opioid Use Disorder Care: An Assessment of Nordic Approaches

Opioid Use disorder is one of the most challenging forms of addiction facing health care systems around the world. The treatment of opioid dependence is important to reduce its health and social consequences and to improve the well-being and social functioning of people affected.

Researchers from Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway have conducted a study analysing differences in population needs and approaches to OUD care in the different regions.

Evidence of population sizes and treatment approach were collected and common standards for care were defined for each country.

Results show:

  • The number of problem/ high-risk individuals with OUD: Sweden (29,500), Denmark (13,000), Finland (15,000), Norway (7,700–12,600) and Iceland (200). The definition of problem/ high risk is slightly different across the countries.
  • The approach to OUD care is similar across the Nordic countries. This involved integrated programmes with opioid agonist therapy and psychosocial therapy.
  • In Sweden and Iceland patients are more likely to start with inpatient care
  • In Sweden, a diagnosis of OUD for at least 12 months is required for treatment entry
  • Methadone is the most common choice in Denmark.
  • Although all countries operated needle exchange programmes, these are more difficult to access in Sweden compared to the other 4 countries.

Overall access to care differs with higher levels of engagement in Norway and Denmark, and lower levels in Sweden and Finland. Comparison across different countries allows policymakers, practitioners and researchers to define best practice and make alterations to current services were necessary.

Gedeon, Charlotte, Mikael Sandell, Inge Birkemose, Johan Kakko, Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, Kaarlo Simojoki, Thomas Clausen, Fred Nyberg, Richard Littlewood, and Hannu Alho. "Standards for opioid use disorder care: An assessment of Nordic approaches." Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs(2019): 1455072518815322.