A qualitative study of methamphetamine users' perspectives on barriers and facilitators of drug abstinence

J Psychoactive Drugs. Jul-Aug 2014;46(3):215-25. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2014.914611.


To better understand methamphetamine (MA) use patterns and the process of recovery, qualitative interviews were conducted with adult MA users (n = 20), comparing a sample that received substance abuse treatment with those who had not received treatment. Respondents provided detailed information on why and how they changed from use to abstinence and factors they considered to be barriers to abstinence. Audio recordings and transcripts were reviewed for common themes. Participants reported a range of mild/moderate to intensely destructive problems, including loss of important relationships and profound changes to who they felt they were at their core; e.g., "I didn't realize how dark and mean I was … I was like a different person." Initial abstinence was often facilitated by multiple external forces (e.g., drug testing, child custody issues, prison, relocation), but sustained abstinence was attributed to shifts in thinking and salient realizations about using. The treatment group reported using more and different resources to maintain their abstinence than the no-treatment group. Findings indicate individualized interventions and multiple, simultaneous approaches and resources were essential in reaching stable abstinence. Understanding long-term users' experiences with MA use, addiction, and abstinence can inform strategies for engaging and sustaining MA users in treatment and recovery.

Keywords: abstinence; methamphetamine; qualitative analysis; recovery; relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Drug Users / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine