The non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids together with the use of illicit opioids is an increasing public health problem in Australia.

General practitioners, pharmacists and other health professionals use pharmacotherapy as an evidence-based treatment for patients with opioid dependency

Role of pharmacotherapy

Pharmacotherapy is the term used to describe the use of medication (such as methadone and buprenorphine) to assist in the treatment of opioid dependence. It is also referred to as Medicated Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence (MATOD); Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT); and Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST).

Pharmacotherapy aims to reduce health, social and economic harms caused by dependence on either illicit or licit opioids.

Long-term pharmacotherapy treatment has proven to:

  • Reduce the use of heroin or other opiates
  • Reduce illness and death related to drug-taking
  • Help people stabilise their lives and lead more productive lives
  • Prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses
  • Reduce the rate of criminal activity in the community

Pharmacotherapy Area-Based Networks

There are five Pharmacotherapy Area-Based Networks (PABNs) in Victoria.

They are funded by the Department of Health & Human Services and aim to provide pharmacotherapy support, education and information for primary care practitioners and pharmacists across the state.

Two PABNs fall within Western Victoria PHN.

Ballarat Goldfields/Wimmera Grampians

Orticare is the lead agency for the Grampians Loddon Mallee PABN. For more details, go to the Orticare website.

Geelong Otway/Great South Coast

Western Victoria PHN is the lead agency for the Barwon South West PABN which covers the Geelong Otway and Great South Coast sub-regions. Local support for primary care practitioners includes:

  • Mentoring from experienced professional peers in general practice, community pharmacies and nursing
  • Paid clinical placements with experienced prescribers
  • Professional development and accredited training
  • Clinical networks for health professionals with an interest in addiction treatment and harm reduction
  • Clinics and consultations from Nurse Practitioners
  • Training for practice staff

For more information on the Barwon South West PABN:

Addiction Medicine Specialist (AMS) Service

Offering advice, consultations and education to primary health clinicians in the Geelong Otway / Great South Coast region

The service can be accessed via standard referral letter to the Barwon Health Pharmacotherapy clinic via or by calling Barwon Health Phone Triage on 1300 094 187.

*The referrer MUST consent to provide ongoing care for the patient, in collaboration with any linked AOD services


For prescribers

  • RACGP Training – The Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) program is available online

For dispensers

Resources for health professionals

Other resources

Last modified: 10 May, 2021