Canadian illicit opiate users' views on methadone and other opiate prescription treatment: an exploratory qualitative study

Subst Use Misuse. 2002 Mar;37(4):495-522. doi: 10.1081/ja-120002807.


Although methadone treatment has been available in North America for decades, only a small proportion of opiate addicts (some 25% of estimated opiate users in Canada) are receiving methadone treatment. Many users have tried methadone treatment, often multiple times, but leave treatment prematurely. Others would not consider it as a worthwhile treatment option for themselves. This exploratory study examines regular opiate users' attitudes towards and experiences with methadone treatment in Canada, primarily setting out to determine what makes methadone an unsuccessful or even an undesirable treatment option for considerably large groups of opiate users. This empirical effort to explore the limitations of existing methadone treatment comes at an appropriate time, when alternative forms of opiate pharmacotherapy treatment are being proposed in Canada as complementary modes of intervention that hope to address the shortcomings of methadone treatment. The rationale for this study were feasibility questions and development efforts for a clinical trial in North America evaluating the effectiveness of using injectable opioids (heroin, dilaudid) in attracting and engaging treatment-resistant opiate users into treatment. Data for this exploratory qualitative study was collected in 1999 through a series of focus groups involving 47 treatment-experienced and treatment-naive opiate users in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, with the objective of identifying key themes and issues on the described topic as a basis for further systematic research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Focus Groups
  • Heroin / administration & dosage
  • Heroin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Methadone / administration & dosage
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • North America
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / rehabilitation


  • Heroin
  • Methadone