People with opioid use disorders: A taxonomy of treatment entrants to support the development of a profile-based approach to care

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2023 May;42(4):765-777. doi: 10.1111/dar.13634. Epub 2023 Mar 11.


Introduction: People with opioid use disorders (OUD) present with high levels of medical and psychosocial vulnerabilities. In recent years, studies have highlighted a shift in demographic and biopsychosocial profiles of people with OUD. In order to support the development of a profile-based approach to care, this study aims to identify different profiles of people with OUD in a sample of patients admitted to a specialised opioid agonist treatment (OAT) facility.

Methods: Twenty-three categorical variables (demographic, clinical, indicators of health and social precariousness) were retrieved from a sample of 296 patient charts in a large Montréal-based OAT facility (2017-2019). Descriptive analyses were followed by a three-step latent class analysis (LCA) to identify different socio-clinical profiles and examine their association with demographic variables.

Results: The LCA revealed three socio-clinical profiles: (i) "polysubstance use with psychiatric, physical and social vulnerabilities" (37% of the sample); (ii) "heroin use with vulnerabilities to anxiety and depression" (33%); (iii) "pharmaceutical-type opioid use with vulnerabilities to anxiety, depression and chronic pain" (30%). Class 3 individuals were more likely to be aged 45 years and older.

Discussion and conclusion: While current approaches (such as low- and regular-threshold services) may be suited for many OUD treatment entrants, there may be a need to improve the continuum of care between mental health, chronic pain, and addiction services for those characterised by the use of pharmaceutical-type opioids, chronic pain and older age. Overall, the results support further exploring profile-based approaches to care, tailored to subgroups of patients with differing needs or abilities.

Keywords: health services needs; opioid use disorder; taxonomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / therapy
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations