Mental Health  |  OST Drug Issues Pathway - Treatment Completion

Mental Health

OST Drug Issues Pathway - Treatment Completion

"Entering and staying in treatment, coming off opioid substitution treatment and exiting structured treatment are all important indicators of an individual's recovery progress, but they do not in themselves constitute recovery. Coming off OST or exiting treatment prematurely can harm individuals, especially if it leads to relapse, which is also harmful to society. Recovery is broader and more complex journey that incorporates overcoming dependence, reducing risk-taking behaviour and offending, improving health, functioning as a productive member of society and becoming personally fulfilled. These recovery outcomes are often mutually reinforcing. " The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (2012) in the NZ Practice Guidelines for Opioid Substitution Treatment (2014) p26"

Where a patient expresses an intention or desire to withdraw from methadone or suboxone please contact the GP Liaison Nurse for support with this.


  • Motivation for withdrawal.

  • Giving information to the patient e.g. the orange Coming off Methadone booklet.

  • Discuss withdrawal options and develop a plan with the patient.

  • Patients may also stop reduction for a period or have small dose increases before recommencing reductions. As with the opening quote; Recovery is broader and more complex journey.
  • Review the withdrawal process each time the patient is seen or at the patient's request.

  • Offer and negotiate a 'window period' of between 0 and 12 weeks with the patient during and prior to the completion of the withdrawal from methadone or suboxone. The window period is the time after the last methadone or suboxone dose is consumed within which the patient can choose to immediately restabilise on methadone or suboxone. (Note: The restabilisation on methadone or suboxone will be carried out by BOPAS, and the patient transferred back to the GP programme as appropriate).

  • Notify the GP Liaison Nurse of the date on which the patient last consumed methadone or suboxone and of the negotiated window period.

  • If the patient makes contact wishing to re-stabilize on methadone or suboxone within the window period contact the GP Liaison Nurse about making an appointment at BOPAS for assessment regards restabilisation.

  • If the patient makes contact wishing to recommence on methadone or suboxone after the window period is completed then refer them to BOPAS for reassessment.

If you believe that positive treatment outcomes will be compromised by withdrawal contact the GP Liaison Nurse to arrange a joint appointment with the patient to discuss and decide on an appropriate course of action, or contact the BOPAS, medical officer for advice/support.

Last updated : Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Next review date : Thursday, November 10,2016

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