Treatment of an HIV-affected adolescent with heroin dependence in a low-income country: A clinical case study from Zambia

Christopher Akiba, Jeremy C. Kane, Stephanie Skavenski van Wyk, Ravi Paul, Chombalelo Mukunta, Laura K. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended guidelines for the treatment of opioid dependence, there are myriad challenges to successfully implementing such guidelines in resource constrained settings, such as in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). To highlight these challenges, this paper presents a clinical case study of an adolescent study participant in a randomized controlled trial comparing two counseling programs in Lusaka, Zambia. Case description: This 15 year-old male reported smoking marijuana and heroin daily, and injecting heroin monthly (while needle sharing). The patient was linked to the only physician capable of treating heroin addiction in Zambia. The patient was placed on a 30-day detox regimen of Tramadol administered from home, as in-patient detox services are unavailable in Zambia. The patient experienced complications with out-patient detox, including a relapse that led to violent behavior and temporary incarceration. The patient's treatment regimen was altered to include Lorazepam, a mild sedative, and psychosocial counseling. After completing detox the client was prescribed Naltrexone for maintenance as Methadone is listed as a banned substance in Zambia, and Buprenorphine is not available and is cost prohibitive. Conclusions: Despite a considerable amount of time and resources expended to successfully treat the patient, the majority of WHO guidelines for opioid dependence treatment were not attainable within the Zambian context. Additional research into the effectiveness and implementation of evidence-based interventions for substance use in LMICs is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-175
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • HIV
  • Heroin
  • Low- and middle-income country
  • Orphans and vulnerable children
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Treatment of an HIV-affected adolescent with heroin dependence in a low-income country: A clinical case study from Zambia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this