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Patterns of pre-treatment drug abuse, drug treatment history and characteristics of addicts in methadone maintenance treatment in Iran

Hajar Shekarchizadeh12, Hamed Ekhtiari34, Mohammad R Khami1 and Jorma I Virtanen56*

Author Affiliations

1 Community Oral Health Department, School of Dentistry, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Oral Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

3 Translational Neuroscience Program, Institute for Cognitive Science Studies, Tehran, Iran

4 Neurocognitive Laboratory, Iranian National Center for Addiction Studies, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

5 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

6 Department of Community Dentistry, University of Oulu, P.O.Box 5281, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland

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Harm Reduction Journal 2012, 9:18  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-18

Published: 7 June 2012



Opiates are the main drugs of abuse, and Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) is the most widely administered drug addiction treatment program in Iran. Our study aimed to investigate patterns of pre-treatment drug abuse, addiction treatment history and characteristics of patients in MMT in Tehran.


We applied a stratified cluster random sampling technique and conducted a cross-sectional survey utilizing a standard patient characteristic and addiction history form with patients (n = 810) in MMT. The Chi-square test and t-test served for statistical analyses.


A clear majority of the participants were men (96%), more than 60% of whom were between 25 and 44 years of age, educated (89% had more than elementary education), and employed (>70%). The most commonly reported main drugs of abuse prior to MMT entry were opium (69%) and crystalline heroin (24%). The patients’ lifetime drug experience included opium (92%), crystalline heroin (28%), cannabis (16%), amphetamines (15%), and other drugs (33%). Crystalline heroin abusers were younger than opium users, had begun abusing drugs earlier, and reported a shorter history of opiate addiction.


Opium and crystalline heroin were the main drugs of abuse. A high rate of addiction using more dangerous opiate drugs such as crystalline heroin calls for more preventive efforts, especially among young men.

Addiction; Opiates; Methadone Maintenance; Socioeconomic