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Diet and nutrient intake of people receiving opioid agonist treatment (OAT): implications for recovery

Suzanne Sayuri Ii (National Addiction Centre, King's College London, London, UK)
Lisa Ryan (Department of Natural Sciences, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland)
Joanne Neale (National Addiction Centre, King's College London, London, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to provide new insights into the diet and nutrient intake of people receiving opioid agonist treatment (OAT) in the UK, offering implications for recovery-oriented treatment and care.


Diet and nutrient intake were assessed using quantitative methods. The research tools used were: a socio-demographic and drug use questionnaire, 24-hour dietary recall interview and anthropometry measures. A four-month follow-up was conducted using the same methods.


Mean (SD) body mass index for males (n=15) and females (n=10) exceeded the normal range (25.2 (5.9) kg/m2 and 33.3 (8.6) kg/m2, respectively) at baseline. Males decreased to the normal range at follow-up (mean (SD)=24.1 (±6.2) kg/m2]. Females increased to obesity Class II at follow-up (mean (SD)=35.1 (±8.0) kg/m2). Non-starch polysaccharide intakes were significantly lower than the reference nutrient intake (RNI). Iron intakes for females were significantly below the RNI. Saturated fat intake and sodium intake exceeded the RNI. In total, 11 (44 per cent) participants had multiple health conditions. Participants regularly consumed meals and reported frequent snacking events.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need for better understanding of nutrition-related issues and dietary deficiencies amongst people receiving OAT, including larger studies that explore differences between males and females, other sub-groups and changes over time.

Practical implications

Nutritional recommendations or guidelines and increased attention to nutrition and diet within treatment programmes are needed to help people receiving OAT.


This paper demonstrates how diet and nutrient intake are essential to recovery processes and outcomes.



The authors wish to thank Oxford Brookes University for funding the first two years of the study. Thank you to Dr Jan Davison-Fischer, Dr Caral Brown and Dr Carly Wheeler for their discussions and advice about recruitment and research methods. Thank you to Dr Sarah Hiller and Dr Peter Wootton-Beard for their dietary methods training and advice. The authors would also like to thank the pharmacists who assisted the authors with recruitment. In particular, the authors would like to give their appreciation to the participants for their time in the study.


Ii, S.S., Ryan, L. and Neale, J. (2016), "Diet and nutrient intake of people receiving opioid agonist treatment (OAT): implications for recovery", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 59-71.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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