Patient experiences of methadone treatment changes during the first wave of COVID-19: a national community-driven survey

Sarah Brothers, Adam Palayew, Caty Simon, Abby Coulter, Knina Strichartz, Nick Voyles, Louise Vincent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: During COVID-19, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) allowed Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) programs to relax in-person MMT requirements to reduce COVID-19 exposure. This study examines patient-reported changes to in-person methadone clinic attendance requirements during COVID-19. Methods: From June 7, 2020, to July 15, 2020, a convenience sample of methadone patients (N = 392) were recruited in collaboration with National Survivors Union (NSU) in 43 states and Washington D.C. through social media (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Web site pop-ups). The community-driven research (CDR) online survey collected information on how patient take-home methadone dosing and in-person drug testing, counseling, and clinic visit frequency changed prior to COVID-19 (before March 2020) to during COVID-19 (June and July 2020). Results: During the study time period, the percentage of respondents receiving at least 14 days of take-home doses increased from 22 to 53%, while the percentage receiving one or no take-home doses decreased from 22.4% before COVID-19 to 10.2% during COVID-19. In-person counseling attendance decreased from 82.9% to 19.4%. While only 3.3% of respondents accessed counseling through telehealth before COVID-19, this percentage increased to 61.7% during COVID-19. Many respondents (41.3%) reported visiting their clinics in person once a week or more during COVID-19. Conclusions: During the first wave of COVID-19, methadone patients report decreased in-person clinic attendance and increased take-home doses and use of telehealth for counseling services. However, respondents reported considerable variations, and many were still required to make frequent in-person clinic visits, which put patients at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Relaxations of MMT in-person requirements during COVID-19 should be consistently implemented and made permanent, and patient experiences of these changes should be explored further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this