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  1. Mohamad N, Bakar NH, Musa N, Talib N, Ismail R
    Harm Reduct J, 2010;7:30.
    PMID: 21167035 DOI: 10.1186/1477-7517-7-30
    BACKGROUND: Methadone is a synthetic opiate mu receptor agonist that is widely used to substitute for illicit opiates in the management of opiate dependence. It helps prevent opiate users from injecting and sharing needles which are vehicles for the spread of HIV and other blood borne viruses. This study has the objective of determining the utility of daily methadone dose to predict retention rates and re-injecting behaviour among opiate dependents.
    METHODS: Subjects comprised opiate dependent individuals who met study criteria. They took methadone based on the Malaysian guidelines and were monitored according to the study protocols. At six months, data was collected for analyses. The sensitivity and specificity daily methadone doses to predict retention rates and re-injecting behaviour were evaluated.
    RESULTS: Sixty-four patients volunteered to participate but only 35 (54.69%) remained active and 29 (45.31%) were inactive at 6 months of treatment. Higher doses were significantly correlated with retention rate (p < 0.0001) and re-injecting behaviour (p < 0.001). Of those retained, 80.0% were on 80 mg or more methadone per day doses with 20.0% on receiving 40 mg -79 mg.
    CONCLUSIONS: We concluded that a daily dose of at least 40 mg was required to retain patients in treatment and to prevent re-injecting behaviour. A dose of at least 80 mg per day was associated with best results.
  2. Tanguay P, Kamarulzaman A, Aramrattana A, Wodak A, Thomson N, Ali R, et al.
    Harm Reduct J, 2015 Oct 16;12:31.
    PMID: 26470779 DOI: 10.1186/s12954-015-0071-0
    Evidence indicates that detention of people who use drugs in compulsory centers in the name of treatment is common in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The expansion of such practices has been costly, has not generated positive health outcomes, and has not reduced supply or demand for illicit drugs. United Nations agencies have convened several consultations with government and civil society stakeholders in order to facilitate a transition to voluntary evidence- and community-based drug dependence treatment and support services. In an effort to support such efforts, an informal group of experts proposes a three-step process to initiate and accelerate national-level transitions. Specifically, the working group recommends the establishment of a national multisectoral decision-making committee to oversee the development of national transition plans, drug policy reform to eliminate barriers to community-based drug dependence treatment and support services, and the integration of community-based drug dependence treatment in existing national health and social service systems.In parallel, the working group recommends that national-level transitions should be guided by overarching principles, including ethics, human rights, meaningful involvement of affected communities, and client safety, as well as good governance, transparency, and accountability. The transition also represents an opportunity to review the roles and responsibilities of various agencies across the public health and public security sectors in order to balance the workload and ensure positive results. The need to accelerate national-level transitions to voluntary community-based drug dependence treatment and support services is compelling--on economic, medical, sustainable community development, and ethical grounds--as extensively documented in the literature. In this context, the expert working group fully endorses initiation of a transition towards voluntary evidence- and community-based drug dependence treatment and support services across the region, as well as the steady scale-down of compulsory centers for drug users.Components of voluntary community-based drug dependence treatment and support services are being implemented in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. However, significant technical and financial support will be required to be allocated from national budgets and by international development agencies in order to complete the transition and reduce the reliance on detention of people who use drugs in Asia.
  3. Stone KA
    Harm Reduct J, 2015;12:32.
    PMID: 26472335 DOI: 10.1186/s12954-015-0066-x
    There is an estimate of three to five million people who inject drugs living in Asia. Unsafe injecting drug use is a major driver of both the HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) epidemic in this region, and an increase in incidence among people who inject drugs continues. Although harm reduction is becoming increasingly accepted, a largely punitive policy remains firmly in place, undermining access to life-saving programmes. The aim of this study is to present an overview of key findings on harm reduction in Asia based on data collected for the Global State of Harm Reduction 2014.
  4. Rahman F, Lall P, Iqbal S, Vicknasingam B
    Harm Reduct J, 2015 Nov 05;12:52.
    PMID: 26542117 DOI: 10.1186/s12954-015-0086-6
    BACKGROUND: Out of 20,887 persons who use drugs that came into contact with the National Anti-Drugs Agency (NADA) officials in the year 2013, 3.2% were women. Because women who use drugs (WWUD) are often a hidden population, this may be an underestimate. International literature shows that women who use drugs face increased risk of HIV, intimate partner violence, and mental health issues. Similar literature in Malaysia is lacking, and thus, the objective of our study was exploratory in nature.

    METHODS: Thirty-eight women who use drugs were interviewed using a semi-structured topic guide in Kelantan, Penang, Johor, Kuala Lumpur, and Selangor. Locations were chosen purposively. Nineteen women were interviewed individually and the remaining 19 were in focus group discussions (FGDs). All interviews were transcribed verbatim, translated to English, and analyzed with NVivo.

    RESULTS: Median age of respondents was 35.5 years old, 89.5% ethnic Malays, majority having married below the age of 20, and were of low socioeconomic backgrounds. Youngest age of initiation into drug use was 9 years old. Most reported is inhalation of amphetamine-type substances. Seven reported ever injecting. Three themes emerged: (a) repeating patterns of fluid family structures and instability; (b) "pain" and "difficulty" as features of home life; and (c) seeking marriage as a source of stabilization and practices of power within those marriages. Respondents often came from very fluid family environments and married to find stability, only to be drawn into a similar cycle. None of the women who had been separated from their children either institutionally, by family members, or by third parties, had accessed legal recourse for the loss of their parental rights.

    CONCLUSION: Unstable familial relationships or environments contributed to earlier initiation of drug use which raised questions about support services for WWUD and children who use drugs. Respondents were drawn into unstable and/or abusive relationships, perpetuating social inequalities that marked their own familial environments during childhood. These findings support the need for additional services to support the unique needs of WWUD, including domestic violence services, financial and life skills, parental rights assistance, and empowerment programs.

  5. Mesquita F, Jacka D, Ricard D, Shaw G, Tieru H, Hu Y, et al.
    Harm Reduct J, 2008;5:26.
    PMID: 18680604 DOI: 10.1186/1477-7517-5-26
    The epidemic of HIV/AIDS linked to injecting drug usage is one of the most explosive in recent years. After a historical epicentre in Europe, South and North America, at present it is clearly the main cause of dissemination of the epidemic in Eastern Europe and some key Asian countries. Recently, 10 African countries reported the spread of HIV through people who inject drugs (PWID), breaking one of the final geographical barriers to the globalization of the epidemic of HIV among and from PWID. Several countries of the Asia and Pacific Region have HIV epidemics that are driven by injecting drug usage. Harm reduction interventions have been implemented in many countries and potential barriers to implementation are being overcome. Harm reduction is no longer a marginal approach in the Region; instead, it is the core tool for responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic among PWID. The development of a comprehensive response in the Region has been remarkable, including scaling up of needle and syringe programmes (NSPs), methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), and care, support and treatment for PWID. This development is being followed up by strong ongoing changes in policies and legislations. The main issue now is to enhance interventions to a level that can impact the epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the leading UN agencies promoting harm reduction. Since the establishment of the Global Programme on AIDS, WHO has been working towards an effective response to the HIV epidemic among PWID. WHO's work is organized into a number of components: establishing an evidence base; advocacy; development of normative standards, tools and guidelines; providing technical support to countries; ensuring access to essential medicines, diagnostics and commodities; and mobilizing resources. In this paper, we trace the course of development of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among and from PWID in the Western Pacific and Asia Region (WPRO) as well as WHO's role in supporting the response in some of the key countries: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam.
  6. Azbel L, Rozanova J, Michels I, Altice FL, Stöver H
    Harm Reduct J, 2017 07 10;14(1):43.
    PMID: 28693573 DOI: 10.1186/s12954-017-0168-8
    BACKGROUND: Kyrgyzstan, where HIV is concentrated in prisons and driven by injection drug use, provides a prison-based methadone maintenance therapy program as well as abstinence-oriented therapeutic community based on the 12-step model called the "Clean Zone." We aimed to qualitatively assess how prisoners navigate between these treatment options to understand the persistence of the Clean Zone despite a lack of evidence to support its effectiveness in treating opioid use disorders.

    METHODS: We conducted an analysis of policy documents and over 60 h of participant observation in February 2016, which included focus groups with a convenience sample of 20 therapeutic community staff members, 110 prisoners across three male and one female prisons, and qualitative interviews with two former Clean Zone participants. Field notes containing verbatim quotes from participants were analyzed through iterative reading and discussion to understand how participants generally perceive the program, barriers to entry and retention, and implications for future treatment within prisons.

    RESULTS: Our analyses discerned three themes: pride in the mission of the Clean Zone, idealism regarding addiction treatment outcomes against all odds, and the demonization of methadone.

    CONCLUSION: Despite low enrollment and lack of an evidence base, the therapeutic community is buttressed by the strong support of the prison administration and its clients as an "ordered" alternative to what is seen as chaotic life outside of the Clean Zone. The lack of services for Clean Zone patients after release likely contributes to high rates of relapse to drug use. The Clean Zone would benefit from integration of stabilized methadone patients combined with a post-release program.

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