A Stage I pilot study of acceptance and commitment therapy for methadone detoxification

Angela L. Stotts, Charles Green, Akihiko Masuda, John Grabowski, Kelly Wilson, Thomas F. Northrup, F. Gerard Moeller, Joy M. Schmitz

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37 Scopus citations


Background: While agonist replacement therapies are effective for managing opioid dependence, community treatment programs are increasingly choosing detoxification. Unfortunately, success rates for opioid detoxification are very low, in part, due to physical and psychological symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal. Few behavior therapies specifically address the distressing experiences specific to opioid withdrawal. A novel behavioral treatment, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), works from the premise that the avoidance of unpleasant private experiences (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations) is ubiquitous yet may be pathogenic, resulting in treatment drop-out and further drug use. Methods: This Stage I pilot study developed and tested an ACT-based opioid detoxification behavioral therapy. Opioid dependent patients (n=56) who were attending a licensed methadone clinic were randomized to receive either 24 individual therapy sessions of ACT or drug counseling (DC) in the context of a 6-month methadone dose reduction program. Results: While no difference was found on opioid use during treatment, 37% of participants in the ACT condition were successfully detoxified at the end of treatment compared to 19% of those who received DC. Fear of detoxification was also reduced across time in the ACT condition relative to DC. Conclusion: This first study of ACT to assist opioid detoxification indicates promise. Research is needed to refine specific treatment strategies for this population to further strengthen effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-222
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012



  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Behavior therapy
  • Methadone
  • Mindfulness
  • Opiate
  • Opioid dependence
  • Opioid detoxification
  • Opioid withdrawal

Cite this

Stotts, A. L., Green, C., Masuda, A., Grabowski, J., Wilson, K., Northrup, T. F., Moeller, F. G., & Schmitz, J. M. (2012). A Stage I pilot study of acceptance and commitment therapy for methadone detoxification. Drug and alcohol dependence, 125(3), 215-222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.02.015