Methadone Dose, Cannabis Use, and Treatment Retention: Findings From a Community-based Sample of People Who Use Unregulated Drugs

J Addict Med. 2022 Aug 1. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001032. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Lower daily methadone dose is negatively associated with retention in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). Cannabis use during MMT is common, with many patients reporting its use for opioid withdrawal mitigation. We sought to test whether the association between lower MMT dose and treatment retention differs by concurrent high-frequency cannabis use in a community sample of people on MMT.

Methods: We obtained data from participants initiating MMT in 2 community-recruited prospective cohorts of people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada. We built multivariable Cox frailty models to estimate the relationships between MMT dose (<90 mg/d vs ≥90 mg/d) and time to treatment discontinuation. We included an interaction term to test whether high-frequency (≥daily) cannabis use modified the measured effect of lower treatment dose on treatment retention.

Results: Between December 2005 and December 2018, 829 participants (54.1%) initiated at least 1 MMT episode and were included in the analysis. Lower MMT dose was strongly positively associated with treatment discontinuation regardless of concurrent high-frequency cannabis use (interaction P > 0.05). Structural factors including homelessness and incarceration were significantly and positively associated with treatment discontinuation.

Conclusions: Although we previously found the magnitude and strength of the relationship between lower MMT dose and high-frequency unregulated opioid use to be tempered during high-frequency cannabis use periods, this effect measure modification does not appear to translate to time retained in treatment. Cannabis-based interventions to promote retention in MMT are unlikely to produce long-term benefit without addressing external factors that place MMT patients at increased risk of treatment discontinuation.