Methadone assisted opiate withdrawal and subsequent heroin abstinence: the importance of psychological preparedness




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Peer reviewed



Background and objectives. Treatment guidelines emphasise patient readiness for transitioning from Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) to opiate withdrawal and abstinence. Psychological preparedness indicators for this transition were examined. Methods. Patients (all male) were recruited from three treatment settings: prison, an inpatient detoxification unit, and an outpatient clinic. Time 1 (T1) was admission to methadone assisted withdrawal in all settings.Time 2 (T2) was a 6-month follow-up. With n = 24 at T1 for each group (N = 72), a battery of instruments relevant to psychological preparedness was administered. Results. At T1, inpatients had higher self-efficacy beliefs for successful treatment completion than prison patients. For patients contactable at T2, T1 self-efficacy positively predicted T2 opiate abstinence. No other variable improved prediction. T1 SOCRATES ambivalence scores, age and lifetime heroin use duration predicted maintenance of contact or not with treatment services and contactability by the researcher. Measures of mood did not differ between groups at T1 or predict T2 outcomes. Discussion and Conclusions. Self efficacy beliefs are a potentially useful indicator of readiness for transitioning from OST to a medically assisted opiate withdrawal and subsequent abstinence. Ambivalence regarding change, age, and lifetime heroin use duration are potentially useful predictors of patients maintaining contact with services,and of being retained in research. Scientific Significance. These findings advance existing literature and knowledge by highlighting the importance of self-efficacy in psychological preparedness for opiate abstinence, and the predictive utility to clinicians of this and other variables measurable at admission, in the clinical management of opiate users.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.


Chemical Dependency Treatment, Clinical Interventions, Dependence Syndrome, Detoxification, Heroin, Methadone, Opiates, Treatment Outcomes, Withdrawal, Treatment Retention


Jones, S., Jack, B., Kirby, J, Wilson, T. L. and Murphy, P. N. (2020) Methadone assisted opiate withdrawal and subsequent heroin abstinence: the importance of psychological preparedness. The American Journal on Addictions.


Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science