Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in Canadian Psychosocial Addiction Programs: A National Survey of Policy, Attitudes, and Practice

Can J Psychiatry. 2022 Mar 8;7067437221082858. doi: 10.1177/07067437221082858. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: To describe current approaches in treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) within Canadian psychosocial outpatient, day, and residential addiction treatment programs, with an emphasis on the use of opioid agonist therapy (OAT).

Method: An online census survey was conducted in English and French of Canadian psychosocial addiction treatment programs (N = 214).

Results: Programs estimated that 25% of their clients have OUD. A slight majority of programs provide some type of specialized services to clients with OUD (58%), most frequently providing or facilitating access to OAT but also specialized counselling, case management, education, and harm reduction services.Most programs reported that they admitted clients on OAT (88%) and only a minority expected or encouraged clients to taper (14%) or discontinue (6%). Programs focusing on client abstinence as the treatment goal were more likely to expect or encourage tapering or discontinuation than programs that focus on helping clients achieve personal consumption goals. Of programs that did not currently facilitate OAT, 44% indicated that they would provide OAT, but lacked the necessary accreditation, physician support, or other resources. No philosophical objections to OAT were noted.OAT initiation was provided by 30% of programs, 23% referred to another service within their organization, and 29% referred to a service outside their organization. The remaining 18% did not facilitate OAT initiation at all, ranging from 0% in Quebec to 23% in the Prairies. Overdose response kits were provided by 86% of programs. The majority not providing kits indicated willingness if policy support and resources were provided (67%).

Conclusions: Overall, the results demonstrate that psychosocial programs provide some specialized services for OUD but desire further support specifically to provide OAT, including training, knowledge, and the expertise of individuals qualified to prescribe and dispense OAT. Many psychosocial treatment programs expressed a need for staff and resources for this purpose.

Keywords: addiction services; naloxone; opioid agonist treatment; opioid use disorder treatment.