The Ministry of Public Health and Social Development of Kazakhstan Recognizes Replacement Therapy as a Promising Treatment for Drug Addiction

“The Methadone Program is part of a harm reduction program designed to decrease addiction of drug-users to serious psychoactive substances, to improve their physical and psychological state, to help them return to society and to their families, and to reduce crime and the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases.

Our objective is to explain to the public that this is the most effective treatment available today for drug addicts, and it needs to be widely used, including in government governments.” – Bakhyt Niyazbekovna (President of NGO “Aman-Saulyk”).

Berik (Semey): “I was a drug addict. I made a big mistake in my life. Absurd. I am the only child in my family, but someone I started using drugs in 1996. My wife left me. I lost my job. Then last year, I met some people who were going through the OST Program. Now, I am a lawyer by training, I was able to get an education. I am skeptical by name – unless I see it and try it for myself, I won’t believe it. I saw real results. I saw how they started to quit, and that drugs didn’t have the same hold on them anymore. I decided to join the program. Now its year two of OST and I don’t use drugs. And I want to share this with everyone – that the methadone program has a rightful place, and there are real results.”

Yelena (Temirtau): “I started using drugs in 1996. Twenty years ago. My parents tried everything - all possible treatments, many times (drug treatment centers, clinics, non-traditional medicine). I was even in the psychiatric hospital, but I left because my friends and communication kept pulling me, like a cycle. I was convicted three times. I want to say that if the methadone program had been there in time, maybe I wouldn’t have HIV or wouldn’t have caught tuberculosis. It’s hard to talk about this – it’s the first time I’ve announced this in front of everyone.

Narcology doctor from the Zhambyl Regional Narcological Clinic Yelena Li says, “Methadone was first synthesized by German pharmacists during the Second World War. It is a synthetic opiate, used in medicine as an analgesic. It does not cause a sense of euphoria in patients; patients remain clear-thinking after taking the treatment, and the desire to use narcotics as previously disappears. When we are asked, “How long do we need to use methadone?”, we use the example of a patient with diabetes, who must maintain his health by taking insulin for life. Internationally, as well as it our country, there have been cases of full recovery.”

The Maslikhat Parliament of Aktobe region has decided to finance OST therapy from the local budget. The Regional Departments of Public Health in Shymkent, Aktau, and Atyrau have provided facilities to hold public hearings.

A significant outcome of the GGIF project “Adoption of OST for AIDS Prevention in Kazakhstan”, as noted by the director of the Republican Scientific Practical Center for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Narcology of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Development of Kazakhstan, Chief Psychiatrist and Narcologist S.A. Altynbekov, is that the project will be financed from local budgets starting in 2017. By order of the Ministry, provisions for synthetic replacement therapies have been made in the structures of drug therapy organizations. “We want to establish a site for replacement therapy. In 2017, the local budgets will finance clinics for replacement therapy. The average daily dose [of drugs] for a drug-user costs 8000 tenge; methadone can be purchased for 200 tenge per day. We have a big problem, and we need to help our own people here in Kazakhstan.

A total of 307 people are currently participating in the program, 244 men and 63 women,” reported Sagat Altynbekov.

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