BACKGROUND: Opioid substitution therapy (OST) in the Ukraine was not provided until 2004. Methadone maintenance therapy only became available in May 2008. Injecting drug users in Ukraine are predominantly injecting self-made opioid solution ('Shirka'). A feasibility study on buprenorphine and methadone maintenance treatment was conducted in 2008. METHODS: A total of 331 opioid dependent patients were given buprenorphine (n=191) or methadone (n=140) as a substitute, and a survey of substance use, HIV transmission risks, and legal and social status was conducted at baseline and at six months follow-up. RESULTS: Illegal substance use, illegal activities, incomes and HIV related transmission risks were highly reduced, whereas employment rates and psychiatric problems improved. Retention was comparatively high among the patients in buprenorphine (84.8%) and in methadone maintenance treatment (85.0%) after six months of treatment. CONCLUSION: These data show the successful implementation of OST in the Ukraine among drug users who were predominantly injectors of self-made opioid solutions. Continuing scale-up of OST in the Ukraine is therefore both feasible and highly recommended.