A Good Quality of Life under the Influence of Methadone: A Qualitative Study Among Opiate-Dependent Individuals

 Opiate dependent methadone patients in Belgium give their own accounts of what for them constitutes a good quality of life.

Five main themes which formed important aspects of a high quality of life for these opiate-dependent individuals included:

Social relationships – were universally mentioned. Frequently the presence of a good friend, children, or a supportive, caring partner characterized times with the highest quality of life. Being integrated in and supported in society, even if only in their immediate circles, had a positive impact, engendering feelings of acceptance and respect. The presence of like-minded people often created a feeling of solidarity and a sense of belonging. Maintaining relationships also involved feelings of responsibility and taking care of someone else, enhancing self-esteem.

The stigma of being on methadone was frequently said to impede the formation of such relationships and social integration in general. Family and employers see methadone as a drug rather than a medicine and distrust people who use it. For other participants, taking methadone was a personal secret they carried with them because they feared the social consequences of admitting methadone use. Nevertheless, methadone helped opiate-dependent individuals take responsibility for their children, one of the most important components of their quality of life, and promoted social integration by enabling them to function normally and operate in society. Often, those participants kept their methadone use secret.

Psychological well-being – ‘Feeling good about yourself’ – also characterized the best periods in their lives since they started taking methadone. These feelings often arose when individuals were able to become free of illegal drugs or achieve something in life. Increased self-respect also resulted in more intensive self-care. During these periods interviewees also felt an inner calm and emotional stability previously transiently achieved only by using drugs.

Having an occupation – Work, hobby or training, or just something meaningful to do – was prominent in stories about times participants experienced their highest quality of life.

Being independent was one of the most important components of a high quality of life – in the sense of no longer being dependent on opiates or other drugs, being financially independent, and not reliant on another person for their sense of well-being. In these periods they felt they had gained control of their lives and were standing on their own feet.

A meaningful life was associated with settling down, the security of a family and striving for stability in life. Enjoying small, ordinary things was frequently mentioned. Purposeful living is strongly connected with having daily activities that a person is interested in, that make them feel useful, and feel they actually mean something in this world. Having goals and prospects was a significant sub-theme, extricating participants from a vicious circle of hopelessness and acting as a vehicle through which to further develop one’s personality and discover new things.

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Original Source: De Maeyer J., Vanderplasschen W., Camfield L. et al. International Journal of Nursing Studies: 2011, 48, p. 1244–1257.

Source: Drug and Alcohol Findings (http://findings.org.uk/) – October 27, 2011