By Emilis Subata, Ausra Malinauskayte and Audrone Astrauskiene

This case study is an example of cooperation between the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders and the law enforcement agencies, aimed at reducing narcotic and psychotropic substance turnover. This analysis describes a pilot project that aimed to engage drug users in police custody in the opioid substitution program with methadone. Despite the fact that this was a short-term project that ended after six months due to the termination of funding, it is a striking good practice example that demonstrates the benefits of a humane approach to drug users as opposed to punitive measures, and therefore it remains relevant today.

On July 15, 2010, the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders, the Drug Control Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and the Chief Police Commissariat of Vilnius signed a cooperation agreement. The purpose of the agreement was to strengthen and expand mutual cooperation in addressing drug related problems arising in the Vilnius Roma community which is at the center of drug trafficking in Lithuania.

As part of the agreement, the employees of the Police Commissariat carried out intensive patrolling of the community and its environs, informing drug users about access to treatment at the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders and giving them all the necessary information. This initiative has become a kind of an alternative to criminalization of people who use drugs.

In accordance with the signed agreement, the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders provided consultations and treatment to people who use drugs and who arrived with a referral from the police. The Drug Control Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, in turn, allocated additional funding for the procurement of medicines. The patients were able to start treatment immediately upon arrival at the center, without having to wait several weeks.

To evaluate the services provided by the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders and to assess the changes in the quality of life of the people who use drugs as a result of this practice, a study1 was conducted with the participants of the opioid substitution treatment program.

According to that study conducted among people who were referred to the Vilnius Center for Addictive Disorders, 121 persons had opiate dependency and 117 of them had enrolled into the opioid substitution treatment with methadone. The average age of the patients was 32 years. 14% of the respondents (16 people) were women and 86% (101 people) were men. At the time of entry into the treatment program, 74% (87 respondents) had been in imprisoned at least once. On average, the participants had used psychoactive substances for 10 years, including using drugs intravenously for 9 years.

Click here to read the full article.   

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.

Flickr CC: Straeten