• directly observed therapy;
  • opiate substitution treatment;
  • opiate addiction


Introduction and Aims

Supervised consumption of opiate substitution treatment is standard practice in the UK yet little is known about the patient experience of this treatment modality. This study aimed to assess the patient experience of receiving supervised compared with unsupervised consumption of methadone or buprenorphine.

Design and Methods

A qualitative study utilising a grounded theory approach to analysis. Participants (29) were theoretically sampled from 293 opioid-dependent patients entering a randomised controlled trial of opiate substitution treatment across four urban and community drug treatment services in England. Multidisciplinary staff were recruited for interviews and focus groups (55).


Supervised consumption was accepted by patients, despite causing practical limitations and raising issues of privacy and stigma. Patients recognised that establishing a daily routine away from illicit drugs was useful early in treatment. However, having flexibility to move away from supervision was important. Unsupervised patients reported that they ultimately preferred this treatment approach and appreciated the trust and sense of reward that unsupervised treatment bought. Clinicians expressed confidence in supervised prescribing and reduced risk for their patients, but also concern that a minority of individuals may remain inappropriately supervised for lengthy time periods.

Discussion and Conclusions

This study provides an important patient perspective and is the first in-depth qualitative investigation directly comparing supervision with unsupervised treatment to consider both patient and professional perspectives. Overall, our qualitative findings suggest that flexibly timed discontinuation of supervision may have positive benefits. [Notley C, Holland R, Maskrey V, Nagar J, Kouimtsidis C. Regaining control: The patient experience of supervised compared with unsupervised consumption in opiate substitution treatment. Drug Alcohol Rev 2014;33:64–70]