Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 185, Issue 2, pp 433–441 | Cite as

Demographic and clinical factors predicting retention in methadone maintenance: results from an Irish cohort

  • C. D. DarkerEmail author
  • J. Ho
  • G. Kelly
  • L. Whiston
  • J. Barry
Original Article



Retention in Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is superior to that of other therapies for opioid addiction, but with international retention rates around 50 % after 1 year of treatment, there remains a need for improved retention rates.


This study aimed to explore the demographic and clinical factors predicting retention in MMT.


Face-to-face surveys with MMT patients in a Dublin methadone clinic were conducted. Retention was assessed by the presence and duration of breaks in treatment at any stage.


189 patients participated in the study. 46 % (n = 87) reported having at least one break in treatment, and the median duration of a break was 3 months. Age, current methadone dose and prescription of antipsychotic medication were significant predictors of retention. Patients who were older, single, living in their own home, on a higher dose of methadone, or taking antipsychotic medications had fewer breaks in treatment. Males tended to have significantly longer breaks. Patients reported that the main reasons for breaks were relapse into drug use (21.8 %, n = 19), incarceration (11.4 %, n = 10), weary of MMT (13.7 %, n = 12) or problems at the clinic (10.3 %, n = 9). Factors enabling regular attendance included wanting to get or stay clean (37.5 %, n = 51), avoidance of withdrawal symptoms (16.1 %, n = 22), methadone dependence (13.9 %, n = 19) and services provided (10.2 %, n = 14).


Patients who were older, single, living in their own home, on a higher dose of methadone, or taking antipsychotic medications had fewer breaks in treatment.


Methadone maintenance therapy Retention Demographic factors Clinical factors 



We thank the patients involved in this research.

Conflict of interest

None to declare.

Ethical standard

The current study has been approved by the Drug Treatment Centre Board Ethics Committee and has therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of the Helsinki and its later amendments.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. D. Darker
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Ho
    • 1
  • G. Kelly
    • 1
  • L. Whiston
    • 1
  • J. Barry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity Centre for Health SciencesTrinity College Dublin, Tallaght HospitalDublin 24Ireland

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