A qualitative study of physical activity and dietary practices of people accessing Opioid Agonist Treatment in Ireland

Evan Matthews, Marie Claire Van Hout, Florian Scheibein, Mary Cowman

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Active heroin use presents a time of chaotic behaviours, while opioid agonist treatment (OAT) offers an opportunity for people with opiate substance use disorder to improve health and functioning. Lifestyle behaviours of physical activity and healthy dietary practices are increasingly studied for their role in maintaining physical and mental health among people with mental disorders. Aim: This research aimed to explore service user experiences of change with respect to physical activity and dietary practices since entering OAT. This research also explored barriers and facilitators to positive lifestyle behaviours among those accessing OAT. Methods: Qualitative descriptive interviews were conducted with (n=10) service users using pre-determined themes to explore the aforementioned topic. Results: Participants largely viewed lifestyle behaviours as having improved since entering OAT. A number of barriers, such as methadone related symptomology, physical ill-health, and social circumstances were impeding lifestyle behaviours. Physical activity was also impacted by a number of psychological barriers, such as perceived stigma. Facilitators to lifestyle behaviours discussed by participants demonstrated new routines and support structures associated with the OAT service. Conclusions: Lifestyle behaviours appear to be positively modified during OAT allied to additional health care supports in place for service users and a potential for improved health and social function. A number of barriers, particularly psychological, remain with respect to behaviour change for this population. This research explores these, with learnings for services to support behaviour change
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Article numberISSN 1592-1638
Pages (from-to)37-45
JournalHeroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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