Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

Cumulative barriers to retention in methadone treatment among adults from rural and small urban communities

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez - 19 July 2022


Pasman, E., Kollin, R., Broman, M. et al. Cumulative barriers to retention in methadone treatment among adults from rural and small urban communities. Addict Sci Clin Pract 17, 35 (2022).



Though methadone has been shown to effectively treat opioid use disorder, many barriers prevent individuals from accessing and maintaining treatment. Barriers are prevalent in less populated areas where treatment options are limited. This study examines barriers to retention in methadone treatment in a small Midwest community and identifies factors associated with greater endorsement of barriers.


Patients at an opioid treatment program (N = 267) were recruited to complete a computer-based survey onsite. Surveys assessed demographics, opioid misuse, depression and anxiety symptoms, trauma history and symptoms, social support, and barriers to retention in treatment (e.g., childcare, work, housing, transportation, legal obligations, cost, health). Descriptive statistics were used to examine individual barriers and multiple regression was calculated to identify demographic and psychosocial factors associated with greater cumulative barriers.


Most participants reported at least one barrier to retention in treatment and more than half reported multiple barriers. Travel hardships and work conflicts were the most highly endorsed barriers. Past year return to use (B = 2.31, p = 0.004) and more severe mental health symptomology (B = 0.20, p = 0.038) were associated with greater cumulative barriers. Greater levels of social support were associated with fewer barriers (B = − 0.23, p < 0.001).


This study adds to the limited research on barriers to retention in methadone treatment among patients in rural and small urban communities. Findings suggest flexible regulations for dispensing methadone, co-location or care coordination, and family or peer support programs may further reduce opioid use and related harms in small communities. Individuals with past year return to use reported a greater number of barriers, highlighting the time following return to use as critical for wraparound services and support. Those with co-occurring mental health issues may be vulnerable to poor treatment outcomes, as evidenced by greater endorsement of barriers. As social support emerged as a protective factor, efforts to strengthen informal support networks should be explored as adjunctive services to methadone treatment.