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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 370-373

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on treatment seeking in opioid users: A retrospective comparative study

1 Senior Resident, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India
2 Professor and Head of Department, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India
3 Specialist, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India
4 Professor, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India
5 Junior Resident, Department of Psychiatry and Drug De-Addiction Centre, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mini Sharma
6-Old Registrar Block, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_11_22

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Background: The planet has been hit by the novel coronavirus since December 2019, which has not only affected the day-to-day activities but has also affected the health-seeking approach of the general population. The reports from the National Institute on Drug Abuse survey hint toward a rise in opioid use in the states. Even in India, the utilization of health services, especially the outpatient department (OPD) and opioid substitution clinics have been affected due to the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent national and regional lockdowns. The Indian studies reflect upon the experience and measures to continue the treatment facilities in substance users, yet none are available to reflect upon the impact of COVID-19 on the pattern of opioid use or functionality of OPD services. Objective: The objective of this study is to study the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on treatment seeking among opioid users from OPD-based opioid treatment centers: a retrospective study. Methodology: A retrospective study was done in an OPD-based opioid treatment center of a tertiary care hospital to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on treatment-seeking opioid users by comparing the data of pre-COVID-19 (April 2019–March 2020) and during COVID-19 (April 2020–March 2021) OPD visits by opioid users. The OPD visits data were collected, including the number of visits, the total number of buprenorphine tablets dispensed, and the dose of buprenorphine consumed per month. The data collected were further analyzed for the descriptive and analytic statistics using the SPSS software version 23.0. Results: During the pre-COVID-19 (April 2019–March 2020) duration, there were a total of 1104 (average 92/month) OPD visits and 4818 (Average 401/month) buprenorphine tablets were dispensed; whereas during the COVID-19 year (April 2020–March 2021), it was 980 (average 81.66/month) visits and 5174 (431/month) tablets. The results were further compared using the paired t-test, which was found to be statistically significant for the number of tablets dispensed, whereas not statistically significant for the number of OPD visits and doses. Conclusion: Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the feasibility to seek treatment in opioid users, it has not significantly affected OPD visits for opioid treatment at our center. Although the policy changes such as Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) interim guidelines for opioid substitution therapy have been beneficial to facilitate the harm reduction and treatment-seeking attitude and have not affected the treatment seeking as expected due to lockdown and transportation which have been a hurdle. Further regulations on opioid treatment OPD, Tele-consultation services and mobile mental health services may be helpful to ensure continuity of treatment and harm reduction among the opioid users.

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