Barriers to progressing through a methadone maintenance treatment programme: Perspectives of the clients in the Mid-West of Ireland's drug and alcohol services

Lisa Moran*, Eamon Keenan, Khalifa Elmusharaf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The 'perfect' journey through an Irish Methadone Maintenance Treatment Programme (MMTP) would have a client engage appropriately with all relevant services available to them, inclusive of psychiatry, counselling, out-reach support, nursing and psychology. Concurrently, a client would ideally adhere to their prescribed methadone-dosing regimen, until a client is stabilised allowing them to function optimally. At this point, a client should transfer to the GP community setting. Unfortunately, this fails to occur. To date, very few studies have specifically investigated the reasons why a cohort of clients remain 'trapped' in the high risk, specialist clinical setting. Methods: Qualitative detailed semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 17 clients of one of Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) Drug and Alcohol Services, entitled 'HSE Mid-West Limerick Drug and Alcohol Service'. Each client had a severe Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and clients had spent on average 7.5 years engaging with the MMTP. Results: Participants' life journey prior to an OUD included Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and early exposure to illicit drug use. Shared life events resulting in their initiating and sustaining an OUD involved continuous hardship into adulthood, mental illness and concurrent benzodiazepine use disorder, often resulting in harrowing accounts of participants' loneliness and lack of life purpose. Their living environments, an erroneous understanding of their illness and poor communication with allied health professionals further perpetuated their OUD. Positive factors influencing periods of abstinence were familial incentives and a belief in the efficacy of methadone. Clients own suggestions for improving their journeys included employing a multi-sectorial approach to managing OUD and educating themselves and others on opioid agonist treatments. If clients were not progressing appropriately, they themselves suggested enforcing a 'time-limit' on clients to engage with the programme or indeed for their treatment to be postponed. Conclusions: To optimise the functioning of the MMTP, three tasks need to be fulfilled: 1) Reduce the incidences of ACEs, 2) Diagnose and treat clients with a dual diagnosis 3) Educate clients, their families, the public and allied health care professionals on all aspects of OUD. A cross- departmental, inter-governmental approach is needed to address opioid misuse as a societal issue as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Article number911
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Barriers to effective treatment
  • Clients' perspective
  • Opioid agonist treatment with methadone
  • Opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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