RWANDA – Ndera Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital has implemented medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders in response to the increased reliance on injectable substances, particularly heroin. 

This new effort is a big step towards treating the opioid crisis in Rwanda, where medically assisted treatment options have been few.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone with psychological support to provide complete care for people suffering from opioid use disorder.

This previously untried strategy in Rwanda tries to alleviate the enormous suffering caused by opioid addiction in patients and their families.

The Kicukiro-based Icyizere Psychotherapeutic Centre, a branch of Ndera Hospital, will be the first to offer this treatment, which will begin with methadone and progress to buprenorphine and naltrexone.

In a statement, the hospital emphasised the lack of medically assisted opioid treatment options in Rwanda, which has prompted many financially able patients to seek treatment overseas, leaving the rest without access to necessary care.

According to the local Daily News Times, in 2021, a study performed by Jean Olivier Twahirwa Rwema indicated that heroin is the primary drug of choice for 99% of Rwandan injection drug users, with cocaine and methamphetamine use recorded by 10% and 4%, respectively.

Between 2020 and 2022, Ndera Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital recorded approximately 4,100 cases of substance use disorders, with 223 patients especially coping with opioid addiction.

Furthermore, the Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre stated that 34% of more than 1,700 patients treated between 2015 and 2022 had an opioid use issue.

According to research, combining medicine and treatment can effectively treat substance use problems while also supporting long-term recovery.

The hospital’s administration emphasised that MAT has been found to improve patient survival, increase treatment retention, minimise criminal activity connected to substance abuse, and improve career prospects.

The neuropsychiatric hospital’s statistics reveal that up to 90% of patients who receive MAT maintain sober for at least two years.

The introduction of MAT for opioid addiction will be trialled in three parts over three years, with this project providing one year of methadone treatment to patients participating in the pilot phase and conducting research to monitor the results of methadone maintenance.

The hospital’s management also stated that the data will be used to improve clinical practice.

The first phase will concentrate on methadone treatment and will include support services including counselling, support groups, and other psychological interventions.

The effectiveness of methadone maintenance will be assessed in order to provide evidence-based treatment, ensuring that the new method fulfils patients’ needs and assists them in achieving long-term recovery.

With this initiative, Ndera Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital hopes to provide a long-term, effective solution to Rwanda’s opioid issue, thereby improving the lives of people with drug use disorders and their families.

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