Aims: To identify and describe the context and factors involved in the opioid lapse process following discharge from an Irish inpatient opioid detoxification treatment programme.
Design, participants, setting: Prospective follow-up study of consecutive detoxified opioid dependent patients treated in a specialist inpatient drug dependency unit.
Measurements: The Maudsley Addiction Profile and a structured interview were administered to 109 patients, 18–36 months after discharge.
Findings: Of 109 people interviewed at follow-up, 102 (94%) reported at least one episode of opioid use after leaving the residential treatment programme. Eighty eight patients (86% of the lapsers) identified more than one major factor contributing to their recidivism. The median number of factors identified as having a major role in the lapse was four. The most frequently reported major contributors to lapse were low mood (62%), difficulties with craving (62%), ease of access to heroin (48%) and missing the support of the treatment centre (43%).
Conclusions: Early lapse was common following inpatient treatment of opioid dependence. Lapse tended to result from a number of common, identifiable, high-risk situations, feelings and cognitions which may assist clinicians and patients develop lapse prevention strategies to anticipate and interrupt this process.