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Revista Colombiana de Psiquiatría

versão impressa ISSN 0034-7450


GONZALEZ, Gerardo et al. Facing the Growing Heroin Problem in Colombia: The New Methadone-assisted Treatment Programs. rev.colomb.psiquiatr. [online]. 2019, vol.48, n.2, pp.96-104. ISSN 0034-7450.


Colombia is facing a rising epidemic of intravenous heroin use. Knowledge of the methadone-assisted treatment programs in the country is crucial in order to propose improvement strategies.


13 programmes from priority regions were surveyed. The demographic and clinical characteristics of the patients attending the programs, a description of the services offered, their methadone treatment protocols, the various barriers to treatment and the causes of treatment abandonment were reviewed.


12/13 questionnaires were analysed with a total of 538 active patients. Most of the patients attending these programs were men (85.5%) between 18 and 34 years-old (70%). Forty percent (40%) were intravenous drug users and 25% admitted sharing needles. The comorbidities associated with heroin use were mental illness (48%), hepatitis C (8.7%) and HIV (2%). Psychiatric comorbidity was more likely in patients attending the private sec tor (69.8% vs 29.7%; p < 0.03). The initial average dose of methadone administered was 25.3 ± 8.9mg/day, with a maintenance dose ranging from 41 to 80mg/day. Lack of align ment with primary care was perceived to be the most serious barrier to access, ahead of problems with insurance and prejudice towards treatment with methadone (p < 0.05). Health Administration and insurance problems (p < 0.003), together with the lack of availa bility of methadone (p < 0.018) and relapse (p < 0.014) were the most important reasons for abandonment of treatment.


The treatment protocols of these programmes offer different levels of develop ment and implementation. Some of the barriers to access and reasons for abandonment of treatment with methadone can be mitigated with better health administration.

Palavras-chave : Methadone-assisted treatment; Heroin; Colombia; HIV; Hepatitis C; Primary care.

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