Objectives: This study assessed patients' views of a methadone programme in a Dublin general practice including the degree to which the patients were ‘involved in decisions about their treatment’.
Method: All patients receiving methadone were asked to participate. A face to face questionnaire, with open and closed questions, was administered. Interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and qualitative data were analysed using a thematic approach.
Results: Forty one (87%) of the 47 patients attending the general practice methadone service were interviewed. Of the 39 patients who had used heroin on admission, 69% had stopped and 31% reduced heroin use since starting methadone treatment. A total of 71% reported that the doctor either always involved (59%) or sometimes involved (12%) them in decisions about their treatment. Involvement was interpreted as ‘being listened to’ or ‘having a say’ in deciding methadone dose. Surprisingly those who reported that they were not involved in treatment decisions were more likely to have stopped heroin use (10/11). A significant majority of patients (81%) expressed the desire to stop taking methadone.
Conclusion: Most patients receiving methadone in general practice were listened to and had a say in deciding their methadone dose but did not have an opportunity to engage in more structured or contractual forms of involvement in treatment such as written care plans. In line with a patient centred approach, treatment providers should set their sights beyond the safe delivery of methadone, to provide a service which is centred on patient goals, expectations and choice.