Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
MiNDS Neuroscience Graduate Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Population Genomics Program, Chanchlani Research Centre, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.
Despite its efficacy and widespread use, methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) continues to be widely stigmatized. Reducing the stigma surrounding MMT will help improve the accessibility, retention, and treatment outcomes in MMT.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 adults undergoing MMT. Thematic content analysis was used to identify overarching themes.
In total, 78% of participants reported having experienced stigma surrounding MMT. Common stereotypes associated with MMT patients included the following: methadone as a way to get high, incompetence, untrustworthiness, lack of willpower, and heroin junkies. Participants reported that stigma resulted in lower self-esteem; relationship conflicts; reluctance to initiate, access, or continue MMT; and distrust toward the health care system. Public awareness campaigns, education of health care workers, family therapy, and community meetings were cited as potential stigma-reduction strategies.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION:
Stigma is a widespread and serious issue that adversely affects MMT patients' quality of life and treatment. More efforts are needed to combat MMT-related stigma.