Health related quality of life in individuals transferred from a needle exchange program and starting opioid agonist treatment

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Background. Opioid agonist treatment (OAT), for the treatment of heroin dependence, has been reported to improve overall health and lower mortality. Drug use and retention in treatment have often been used as measures of treatment success. More recently, however, researchers have suggested that measurements of quality of life should be an outcome in substance use treatment evaluations. In a recent randomized controlled trial we demonstrated high rates of successful rapid referral from a needle exchange program (NEP) to OAT. The aim of this study was to see whether an improvement in health related quality of life (HRQoL) could be seen at 3-month follow-up after starting OAT and whether it was associated with any baseline characteristics. We also wanted to compare our sample to a sample from the general population with regard to HRQoL. Methods. This was a 3-month follow-up of 71 patients who started OAT. Measurements of HRQoL with EQ-5D (an instrument developed by the EuroQol group) were made at baseline and at three months. Results. Mean EQ-5D VAS (visual analogue scale) for the study sample at baseline was 47.3, which was lower than a Swedish reference population reporting 83.3. Individuals reporting being prescribed a drug for a psychiatric condition had significantly lower EQ-5D index values. Improvement in EQ-5D index score was significantly less for individuals reporting previous overdoses (-0.10, p=0.025). Individuals reporting previous suicide attempts had significantly lower EQ-5D VAS score at baseline. A significant increase of the EQ-5D VAS difference over time was found with a mean difference of 10.94 (p=0.008) for the total sample. Conclusion. To our knowledge this is the first time HRQoL as an outcome is reported in a population transferred from a NEP to OAT. Our results indicate that OAT can result in increased HRQoL, even with this type of rapid low-threshold referral.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3025683
Pages (from-to)1-7
JournalJournal of addiction
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Substance Abuse


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