By Ruth Dreifuss and Anand Grover

After years of denial and hesitation, Punjab has at last taken the first step towards addressing the opioid crisis currently confronting the state. The decision taken last month by the Government of Punjab to open “Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment” (OOAT) centres constitutes an evidence-based, compassionate approach for people struggling with dependence — and shows what a health-oriented approach to drug use may look like on a national scale.

OOAT centres are being set up in the three districts of Amritsar, Taran Taran and Moga, and will be expanded to other areas in the state. They will provide a range of services to heroin/opioid-dependent persons, including counselling, peer support, referral, follow-up and, most importantly, pharmacological therapy using Buprenorphine, which is an internationally accepted Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) for treating dependence, recommended by the World Health Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and scientific bodies.

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