Drug Substitution

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The controlled substitution therapy is used for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms and furthermore helps to relieve physical as well as psycological pain.

Drug addiction/ Substance abuse

Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs as for example heroin. Psychoactive substance use can lead to addiction – a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use. These phenomena typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences and giving higher priority to drug use than to other activities and obligations. Therefore, opioid dependence is a severe, chronic and psychiatric disease, which may require long-term psychotherapy and medication.

How frequent is opioid addiction?

According to the Austrian drug report of 2013, Cannabis is still the only illegal drug with a rather high frequency of consumption among the general public. Opium consumption (eg. heroin) accounts for most of the problematic drug consumption in Austria. About 90% of the patients who are in any type of drug related care consume opioids. Currently there are roughly between 30.000 to 34.000 people who suffer from problematic opioid abuse, half of whom live in Vienna. Between 15.000 and 17.000 of the people inject the opioid. One quarter of the affected are female and about one fifth are under the age of 25. Currently the number of young people who are abusing is declining.

Substitution therapy as treatment of opioid dependence

Substitution therapy is the controlled administration of a substance in order to suppress withdrawal symptoms. Due to the chronic and sustaining character of the disease, opioid addiction is being treated through maintenance therapy or – if possible- detoxification. The medical maintenance therapy was rated as one of the most effective therapies against opioid abuse by the UN as well as the WHO. Therefore, substitution therapy, especially in combination with psychosocial care, is being regarded as medically and therapeutically meaningful in Europe. The goal of the substitution therapy is to medically stabilize drug addicts, prevent them from acquisitive crime or contracting diseases such as HIV and AIDS and to thus allow the addicts a psychosocial and social (re)integration.


WHO Health topics, substance abuse http://www.who.int/topics/substance_abuse/en/; WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD) http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2010/en#/F10-F19

Bericht zur Drogensituation 2013. [Austrian drug report 2013]. Im Auftrag der Europäischen Beobachtungsstelle für Drogen und Drogensucht, Lissabon und des Bundesministeriums für Gesundheit. Wien, 2013.