Over 75 members of penitentiary system personnel (doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, regime and security staff) have increased their awareness about long-term Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) through the series of one-day seminars organised by the Council of Europe in the period 9-13 November 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Opioid Agonist Treatment is a form of substitution therapy aimed at opioid-dependent (for example, heroin-dependent) people. It uses prescribed opioid agonists or partial agonists that have some properties similar to or identical with heroin and morphine on their action on the nervous system, alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and block cravings for the illicit opioids. The most common form of OAT is methadone maintenance treatment. Research has shown that substitution treatment is the most effective way to treat opioid dependence, to reduce risk of HIV and hepatitis C transmission and to reduce risk of overdose.
Access to OAT has increased significantly in the civil sector during the past several years, while in prisons OAT accessibility remains at the low level. In accordance with international standards, in countries where OAT is available to opiate-dependent individuals in the community, this treatment should also be available in prisons. Currently OAT is accessible in two prisons, however, the long-term maintenance OAT is planned to be gradually introduced in all prisons in Georgia. Therefore, increasing awareness of the penitentiary staff on benefits of OAT and issues that may arise in the process of its implementation is of a paramount importance for improving the provision of therapy and ensuring smooth introduction of long-term maintenance OAT in prisons.
This training was organised under the auspices of the Council of Europe project “Enhancing Healthcare Provision in Georgia’s Penitentiary System”, which is a part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Georgia 2020-2023.