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Consumer attitudes about opioid addiction treatment: A focus group study in New York City

Nancy L. Sohler, PhD, MPH, Linda Weiss, PhD, James E. Egan, MPH, Carolina M. López, BS, Jamie Favaro, LMSW, Robert Cordero, MSW, Chinazo O. Cunningham, MD, MS

Abstract


Objective: To develop effective programs for people who are opioid dependent and to impact the opioid epidemic in New York City, it is crucial to monitor attitudes about opioid addiction treatments among opioid users who have experienced barriers to engagement and retention in addiction treatment.
Design: The authors conducted a qualitative study using focus groups.
Methods: Six focus groups in three needle exchanges in New York City were audio recorded, transcribed, and systematically coded. The authors report on the main themes related to the study objectives.
Participants: Participants of each needle exchange who were opioid dependent and had some knowledge of both methadone and buprenorphine were eligible. Results: There were four main findings. Participants felt the following: 1) buprenorphine is an appropriate option for those heroin users who are motivated to stop using, 2) they have less control over their addiction treatment with methadone than they would have with buprenorphine, 3) buprenorphine treatment is not accessible to many New York City residents who would benefit from this treatment, and 4) lack of access to buprenorphine treatment is a cause of treatment-related diversion.
Conclusions: Both methadone maintenance and buprenorphine treatment opportunities are necessary to address the diverse treatment needs of opioid dependent people in New York City. However, the current medical model of buprenorphine treatment may be too restrictive for some opioid-dependent people and may be contributing to the use of illicit buprenorphine. New models to deliver buprenorphine treatment may address these problems.
Keywords: heroin dependence, qualitative research, methadone, buprenorphine

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jom.2013.0152

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