Economic, social, and clinic influences on opioid treatment program retention in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: a qualitative study

Deja Knight, Iddi Haruna Nkya, Nora Solon West, Cui Yang, Michael Kidorf, Carl Latkin, Haneefa T. Saleem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) are associated with positive health outcomes. People remaining on MOUD have a reduced likelihood of drug overdose and mortality. Tanzania supports a national opioid treatment program (OTP) offering MOUD, but retention is a continual challenge. To date, most research on MOUD retention in Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan Africa settings has been focused on the individual-level, with little attention to economic, social, and clinic-level factors. Methods: We qualitatively examined economic, social, and clinic factors that affect retention on MOUD, specifically methadone maintenance therapy, among former and current clients attending an OTP clinic Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We conducted in-depth interviews with a total of 40 current and former clients receiving MOUD and four focus groups with an additional 35 current clients on MOUD between January and April 2020. We utilized a thematic analysis approach. Results: Daily OTP clinic attendance posed a financial burden to current and former clients and was a barrier to remaining on MOUD. Though treatment is free, clients described struggles to attend clinic, including being able to afford transportation. Female clients were differentially impacted, as sex work was the most common income-generating activity that they participated in, which presented its own set of unique challenges, including barriers to attending during set clinic hours. Drug use stigma acted as a barrier to MOUD and prevented clients from securing a job, rebuilding trust within the community, and accessing transportation to attend the clinic. Being able to rebuild trust with family facilitated remaining on MOUD, as family provided social and financial support. Caretaking responsibilities and familial expectations among female clients conflicted with MOUD adherence. Finally, clinic level factors, such as clinic dispensing hours and punitive consequences for breaking rules, posed barriers to clients on MOUD. Conclusion: Social and structural factors, both within (e.g., clinic policies) and outside of (e.g., transportation) the clinic impact MOUD retention. Our findings can inform interventions and policies to address economic and social barriers to MOUD, that can contribute to sustained recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalAddiction Science and Clinical Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Medications for opioid use disorder
  • Opioid treatment
  • Qualitative
  • Retention
  • Tanzania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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