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Background: Opioid substitution therapy (OST) is endorsed as the recommended treatment for opioid use disorders. Opioid substitution therapy is not widely used in South Africa, so little is known about its perceived clinical utility in this setting. There is also a paucity of qualitative research that explores the subjective experiences of patients using OST.
Aim: To explore patients’ perceptions and experiences attending a South African OST outpatient clinic (OST-OC).
Setting: The OST-OC at Stikland Psychiatric Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with eight participants who had been attending the OST-OC for at least 6 months. Transcripts were analysed using Atlas.ti software and thematic content analysis was used to identify themes.
Results: Patients stated that OST helped them to regain and maintain a stable lifestyle. Autonomy and agency, the therapeutic relationship and family support were perceived as contributing to successful patient outcomes. The preference for methadone and buprenorphine treatment depended on individual experiences. Patients valued kindness from staff members but reported that improved interactions with some nonclinical staff could better facilitate treatment. Challenges experienced included stigma and cost.
Conclusions: This study offers insights about OST that are pertinent to low- and middleincome countries. Reducing the cost of OST, collaborative decision-making between staff and patients, and a non-judgemental attitude by clinical staff were recognised as important factors for optimised service delivery.
Contribution: Understanding patients’ experiences of OST in a South African setting will allow for future policy development for the treatment of opioid use disorders in similar settings locally and abroad.