United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Launches Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure for Medication Assisted Treatment in Nigeria

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched the Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for People with Opioid Dependence in Nigeria. This groundbreaking initiative strives to expand treatment services and improve healthcare access for individuals seeking help for drug use disorders. The launch event brought together relevant stakeholders, including the Honourable Minister of State for Health and the Chairman of NDLEA, who contributed to the development of this crucial initiative.

According to the World Drug Report, there has been a concerning 23% increase in the number of people using drugs over the past decade, with a staggering 45% rise in those with drug use disorders, reaching 39.5 million people worldwide. Nigeria alone accounts for 7.5% of this statistic, with an estimated population of 3 million individuals facing drug use disorders. Particularly concerning is the widespread use of opioids, which rank as the second most consumed drug after cannabis. Additionally, 13.2 million people in Nigeria inject drugs, with half of them testing positive for Hepatitis C, 1.6 million with HIV, and 1.4 million with co-infections.

The launch of the Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure for MAT marks an essential step towards prioritizing the well-being of individuals marginalized by drug use disorders. By offering Medication Assisted Treatment, this initiative acknowledges that people who use drugs are individuals with a condition that requires comprehensive healthcare, thereby preserving their dignity and demonstrating genuine care.

The inception of this crucial program stems from the comprehensive efforts of UNODC, which has been implementing a large-scale project in collaboration with the Government of Nigeria and civil society partners since 2013. Funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), the Project - Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria has made significant strides in combating drug production, trafficking, and use.

 Some noteworthy achievements from this EU funding include the development of national substance use disorder treatment guidelines, a national drug use treatment strategy, standard policy and practice guidelines for NDLEA counselors, national policy guidelines for aftercare for people who use drugs, the Nigerian Quality Assurance Toolkit, DPTC sensitization resource manual, drug education for school children, comprehensive annotation research bibliography, and an in-depth analysis of the availability and use of psychoactive substances in Nigeria.

 The Guidelines for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and the Standard Operating Procedures for MAT, developed at the request of the Federal Ministry of Health, provide a holistic, evidence-based national guideline for the treatment of substance use disorders, aligning with international best practices. Remarkably, these guidelines were chiefly developed by subject matter experts and professionals in Nigeria, overseen by world-renowned experts, ensuring their suitability for the Nigerian context.

"We are immensely proud to launch the Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure for Medication Assisted Treatment in Nigeria," said Dr. Ibanga Akanidomo, who spoke on behalf of UNODC Country representative. "This initiative represents a significant milestone in our collective efforts to address drug use disorders and improve the lives of individuals affected by opioid dependence. We express our heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders who have contributed to the development of this groundbreaking program."

UNODC remains committed to providing ongoing technical support in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the program.