Reorganization of substance use treatment and harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic: a global survey

Seyed Ramin Radfar, Cornelis A J De Jong, Ali Farhoudian, Mohsen Ebrahimi, Parnian Rafei, Mehrnoosh Vahidi, Masud Yunesian, Christos Kouimtsidis, Shalini Arunogiri, Omid Massah, Abbas Deylamizadeh, Kathleen T. Brady, Anja Busse, ISAM-PPIG Global Survey Consortium, Marc N Potenza, Hamed Ekhtiari, Alexander Mario Baldacchino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number639393
Number of pages16
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
  • Pandemic
  • Substance use disorders
  • Drug addiction
  • Public health
  • Drug policy
  • Opiate agonist treatment
  • Addiction services
  • Addiction medicine


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