Understanding Prolonged Cessation from Heroin Use: Findings from a Community-Based Sample

Linda Weiss, Jonathon Gass, James E. Egan, Danielle C. Ompad, Claudia Trezza, David Vlahov

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Background: There is abundant literature describing heroin initiation, co-morbidities, and treatment. Few studies focus on cessation, examining the factors that motivate and facilitate it.Methods: The CHANGE study utilized mixed methods to investigate heroin cessation among low-income New York City participants. This paper describes findings from qualitative interviews with 20 former and 11 current heroin users. Interviews focused on background and current activities, supports, drug history, cessation attempts, and motivators and facilitators to cessation. Results: Participants found motivation for cessation in improved quality of life, relationships, and fear of illness, incarceration and/or death. Sustained cessation required some combination of treatment, strategic avoidance of triggers, and engagement in alternative activities, including support groups, exercise, and faith-based practice. Several reported that progress toward goals served as motivators that increased confidence and facilitated cessation. Ultimatums were key motivators for some participants. Beyond that, they could not articulate factors that distinguished successful from unsuccessful cessation attempts, although data suggest that those who were successful could describe more individualized and concrete-rather than general-motivators and strategies. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that cessation may be facilitated by multifaceted and individualized strategies, suggesting a need for personal and comprehensive approaches to treatment.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)123-132
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of psychoactive drugs
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2014



    • abstinence
    • cessation
    • heroin
    • methadone
    • recovery
    • treatment

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine (miscellaneous)
    • Psychology(all)

    Cite this