Involuntary versus voluntary detoxification from methadone maintenance treatment: The importance of choice

Kelly R. Knight, Marsha Rosenbaum, Jeanette Irwin, Margaret S. Kelley, Lynn Wenger, Allyson Washburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors report on a subset of data from a three-year qualitative and quantitative study of 233 injection drug users (IDUs) in and out of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. We analyzed data from ten study participants detoxified from their MMT programs voluntarily and thirty involuntarily detoxified due to the defunding of their subsidized MMT slots. All of the study participants reported benefits from MMT program participation including decreased drug use or abstinence; decreased illicit activity; increased ability to maintain or initiate conventional employment; and increased ability to respond to parenting and family obligations. Those who were involuntarily detoxified from MMT programs experienced severe destabilization. Many were financially unstable and dependent on subsidized drug treatment prior to defunding. Several defunded participants were detoxified because they could not afford private fees ($225-300/month); others reverted to illicit activities to pay clinic fees. The majority increased heroin use, illicit activity, and experienced economic and personal harm as a result of involuntary detoxification from MMT. Those who chose to detoxify from MMT programs reported longer treatment histories and greater financial stability. Most described methadone as a prescription-like drug; ancillary clinic services, such as counseling, were unnecessary and undesired by many who voluntarily detoxified. Those who remained opioid-free reported that slow detoxifications from MMT, with client input and control, were necessary to prevent relapse. Study participants in this group who returned to the intermittent use of heroin had the financial resources to re-enroll in MMT. None of the voluntarily detoxified study participants returned to daily heroin use or illicit activity when leaving MMT programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Drug Policy
  • Drug Treatment Funding
  • Injection Drug Users
  • Methadone Maintenance Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Involuntary versus voluntary detoxification from methadone maintenance treatment: The importance of choice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this