A review of the history of Opioid Substitution Therapy in Australia

February 2020

Australia has been lauded internationally for its innovative and effective harm minimisation approach to responding to AOD issues. A key component to this approach has been its Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) programs which have made a major contribution to saving lives, reducing the spread of blood borne diseases, reducing acquisitive crime and assisting a large number of Australians to stabilise their lifestyles and continue to participate in society. Despite this, there is no comprehensive documentation that details the development and implementation of OST in Australia nor is there any comprehensive documentation covering the current arrangements for OST provision in each jurisdiction.

As part of its extensive analysis of the historical development and evolution of OST programs in Australia, NCETA is interviewing key individuals who were instrumental in the early phases of the development and implementation of OST in this country.

In doing so, we are keen to recognise the valuable contribution that OST and those who implemented it have made to public health in Australia. This, in turn, provides us with a unique opportunity to hear first-hand from people who played a crucial role in influencing AOD policy development and service delivery in the last century. Key informants have been identified through NCETA’s research team’s networks and recommendations from relevant organisations around the country.

Interviewees are being asked their views on:

  1. The historical development of OST
  2. Contextual / systemic factors influencing the development of OST programs including the main drivers / motivators and obstacles / constraints
  3. Future directions for OST programs in Australia and internationally.

To date, a key emerging theme from the literature and consultations is that there is no single history. Rather, OST programs in Australia have developed in different ways in different jurisdictions, often in response to differing political environments and needs.

The findings from this study will be synthesised and a comprehensive report will be developed by NCETA which will provide the AOD sector with a sound evidence base to assist it to further develop OST programs in Australia and internationally.