Multi-level implementation factors that influence scale-up of methadone maintenance treatment in Moldovan prisons: A qualitative study

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2022 May:136:108660. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108660. Epub 2021 Nov 14.


Introduction: People who inject drugs (PWID) are overrepresented in prison populations, especially in the Eastern European and Central Asian region (EECA), where HIV incidence and mortality continue to rise. Modeling data suggest that methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) scale-up in prison with continuation after release could substantially reduce new HIV infections. Moldova, one of four countries in the EECA to have introduced MMT in prisons, has faced challenges with its scale-up.

Method: To improve implementation of MMT in Moldovan prisoners, we analyzed the qualitative interviews of 44 recently released Moldovan prisoners with opioid use disorder who either accepted or rejected MMT while incarcerated; these 44 were among a subset of 56 participants in a quantitative survey who had complete interview data. After translating and back-translating interviews, we used content analysis to identify key barriers and facilitators to MMT uptake.

Results: Our qualitative analyses revealed that positive attitudes toward methadone facilitated treatment uptake, yet the study identified three thematic barriers as to why PWID do not accept MMT while in prison, including: 1) negative personal attitudes toward MMT; 2) stigmatization of MMT by informal hierarchies within prison; and 3) distrust of the formal prison hierarchy (i.e., administration), which provides MMT.

Conclusion: Overall, the social forces of the two prisoner hierarchies and distrust between them appeared to outweigh the perceived benefits of MMT and impacted MMT uptake. Here we provide strategies to promote MMT more effectively in prison settings.

Keywords: Evidence-based intervention; HIV; Implementation science; Methadone; Moldova; Prisons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Prisoners*
  • Prisons
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous* / epidemiology


  • Methadone