Rehab, respite and recovery: the experiences of methadone users in a modified therapeutic community (MTC) in Scotland

Iain McPhee, Denice Fenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
– There is limited research documenting recovery experiences of residential service users. The purpose of this paper is to explore the perceptions service users on methadone have about recovery. In depth, semi structured 1-1 interviews with seven poly drug using homeless males between the ages of 37 and 46 and analysed using NVivo software. Results are presented thematically. Participants conform to “recovery” norms allowing stigma and shame of illicit drug use to be attributed to former addict identities. Participants on methadone maintenance report inner conflict arising from changing societal and cultural norms that equate recovery with abstinence. Tensions were revealed in true motivations for active rather than passive participation in adopting group work norms.

Design/methodology/approach
– A qualitative design utilises small numbers of participants to gather rich data. In depth, semi structured 1-1 interviews conducted with seven poly drug using homeless males who have completed between ten and 15 weeks of a minimum 26-week residential treatment programme. Participants were aged 37-46. Results were analysed thematically using NVivo software.

Findings
– Participants conform to “recovery” norms allowing stigma and shame of illicit drug use to be attributed to a former stigmatised addict identity. Participants on methadone maintenance report inner conflict arising from changing societal and cultural norms regards recovery and abstinence. A significant process of recovery involved adopting the norms of 12-step groups and TC therapy to gain enough trust to leave the therapeutic community (TC) unsupervised. This created tension regards motivation, were these individuals in recovery, or merely “faking it”?

Research limitations/implications
– A female perspective may have provided a more balanced discussion and yielded greater depth in results. Only one service was studied and the findings may be specific to that cohort. The duration of stay at the service of ten to 15 weeks is a relatively short time and excluded participants resident for six months or more. Longer term residents may have been more reflective and informative.

Practical implications
– Encourage active options and increased debate on the variety of treatment options available to long term homeless opiate users who have failed to comply with previous treatments. While this is a small modest study, the rich data yields practical advice for policy makers and service providers.

Social implications
– This research study adds to an informed perspective by encouraging debate on methadone as a challenge to definitions of recovery that infer abstinence as a key definition of success.

Originality/value
– There is a paucity of research documenting a Scottish TC service user perspective using qualitative methods on experiences of addiction, treatment and recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-136
Number of pages13
JournalTherapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Qualitative research
  • Therapeutic communities
  • Substance dependence
  • Older adults
  • Drugs
  • Residential
  • addiction nursing

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