Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people with substance use disorders (SUDs) worldwide and healthcare systems have reorganized their services in response to the pandemic. Methods: One week after the announcement of the COVID-19 as a pandemic, in a global survey, 177 addiction medicine professionals described COVID-19-related health responses in their own 77 countries in terms of SUD treatment and harm reduction services. The health response is categorized around (1) managerial measures and systems, (2) logistics, (3) service providers and (4) vulnerable groups. Results: Respondents from over 88% of countries reported that core medical and psychiatric care for SUDs had continued; however, only 56% of countries reported having had any business continuity plan, and, 37.5% of countries reported shortages of methadone or buprenorphine supplies. Participants of 41% of countries reported partial discontinuation of harm-reduction services such as needle and syringe programs and condom distribution. 57% of overdose prevention interventions and 81% of outreach services also having been negatively impacted. Conclusions: Participants reported that SUD treatment and harm reduction services had been significantly impacted globally early during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on our findings, we provide a series of recommendations to support countries to be prepared more efficiently for future waves or similar pandemics to 1) help policymakers generate business continuity plans, 2) maintain use of evidence-based interventions for people with SUDs, 3) be prepared for adequate medication supplies, 4) integrate harm reduction programs with other treatment modalities and 5) have specific considerations for vulnerable groups such as immigrants and refugees.


Copyright © 2021 Radfar, De Jong, Farhoudian, Ebrahimi, Rafei, Vahidi, Yunesian, Kouimtsidis, Arunogiri, Massah, Deylamizadeh, Brady, Busse, ISAM-PPIG Global Survey Consortium, Potenza, Ekhtiari and Baldacchino. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Radfar, S., De Jong, C., Farhoudian, A., Ebrahimi, M., Rafei, P., Vahidi, M., Yunesian, M., Kouimtsidis, C., Arunogiri, S., Massah, O., Deylamizadeh, A., Brady, K., Busse, A., ISAM-PPIG Global Survey Consortium, Potenza, M., Ekhtiari, H. & Baldacchino, A. 2021, 'Reorganization of substance use treatment and harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic: a global survey', Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, article no: 639393. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.639393

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Last updated: 24 May 2024
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