For lack of wanting: Discourses of desire in Ukrainian opiate substitution therapy programs

Transcult Psychiatry. 2016 Apr;53(2):198-216. doi: 10.1177/1363461515581543. Epub 2015 May 1.


Available treatments for addiction and substance abuse in Ukraine have been shaped by the economic, political, and social shifts that have followed the country's independence. The introduction of methadone-based opiate substitution therapy (OST) for opiate addicts is especially representative of this. Biomedical paradigms of addiction, its etiology, and its treatment, promoted and paid for by international donors and elite global health entities, are being met by Ukrainian notions of personhood and psychology in both public discourse and clinical settings. Ukrainian physicians who work in OST programs frequently reference desire (желание) as the most significant factor in determining the success or failure of treatment. They refer to a desire to be treated, desire to get better, desire to live. The moralized imperative to possess this desire to get better is, in many ways, a reflection of how addiction and the addicted psyche is constructed and understood in the Ukrainian context. By exploring discourses of desire in narratives of addiction and treatment, I examine how notions of psychology, will, and self-control intersect, shaping the subjectivity, agency, and daily experiences of this vulnerable population.

Keywords: Ukraine; desire; disease narrative; drug addiction; methadone; opiate substitution therapy.

Publication types

  • Personal Narrative
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Motivation*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Ukraine


  • Methadone