Home > Women and methadone maintenance treatment.

Lyons, Suzi (2016) Women and methadone maintenance treatment. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 58, Summer 2016, p. 26.

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A study conducted between 2006 and 2007 in the National Drug Treatment Centre, a large specialist addiction clinic in Dublin, sought to discover whether women in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) had more unmet needs and lower quality of life than men in MMT.1


Any service user who had been receiving MMT for three months or more was eligible for inclusion, excluding those with a history of acute psychiatric problems or end-stage health difficulties. In total, 190 service users were eligible to participate in the study, of whom 108 (57%) agreed to participate.  Of those 108 participants, 35 (32%) were women.  No statistical difference was found in the demographic characteristics of those who did and did not participate in the study.


Three different standardised questionnaires were used: 

  1. WHO Quality of Life – Brief Version (WHO-QOL-Bref),
  2. Maudsley Addiction Profile, and
  3. Camberwell Assessment of Need Short Appraisal Schedule, Patient Version.   

The mean age of participants was 32.7 years, with women slightly younger than men (30.7 years versus 33.7 years). There were no differences in the demographic and social characteristics of women and men, except that women were more likely to have accessed the support of a social worker.   Recent drug use was assessed by self-report and urinalysis.  Men self-reported more use of heroin in the past month and had a higher proportion of positive urines for cocaine. 


Women were statistically more likely to report unmet needs and achieve lower psychological quality of life scores than men. This difference could not be explained by on-going drug use, as the men in the study had higher levels of recent drug use. 


The authors note the limitation of the small sample size. In addition, the findings may not be fully representative as the study was conducted in a specialist addiction service which treats the most complex cases. The generalisability of the study is also affected by the fact that the data were collected over ten years ago. 


The authors suggest that the needs and quality of life of women in MMT warrant further research. They also call on addiction services to ensure that the psychological and social care needs of women clients are addressed.


1 Byrne P, Ducray K and Smyth BP (2016) The impact of sex upon needs and quality of life within a population on methadone treatment Journal of Addiction Medicine 10(1):60–67. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/24979/

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