Characteristics of patients undergoing medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and their interest in Tai Chi practice




opioid use disorder, medication-assisted therapy, Tai Chi, pain, physical limitations, psychiatric symptoms


Objectives: (1) To explore the characteristics of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) maintained on either methadone or buprenorphine and (2) to determine the relative acceptability of integrating Tai Chi (TC) practice into an ongoing medication- assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (MOUD) program.

Design: Survey study.

Setting: The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Center for Addiction Services and Treatment Program.

Patients: 97 patients receiving MOUD treatment.

Main outcomes: Drug use history, treatment status, physical limitation, mental health, pain, and whether participants were interested in using TC to improve health outcomes.

Results: At least 30.9 percent of the sample reported moderate or higher level of limitation in performing rigorous physical activities, pain intensity, and pain interference. Between 37.1 and 61.5 percent of the sample reported various psychiatric symptoms. Methadone patients reported higher levels of physical limitations, especially in rigorous activities (p = .012), climbing several flights of stairs (p = .001), and walking more than a mile (p = .011), but similar levels of pain (ps = .664-.689) and psychiatric symptoms (ps = .262-.879) relative to buprenorphine patients. At least 40.2 percent of participants expressed moderate or higher level of interest in TC for improving health outcomes, with methadone patients more interested in participating to ease mental and sleep problems (p = .005) and improve physical fitness (p = .015) compared to buprenorphine patients.

Conclusions: High prevalence of physical limitation, pain, and psychiatric comorbidities were found in OUD patients. Since patients were interested in TC to improve their health outcomes, this low-cost intervention, if proven effective, can be integrated into ongoing MOUD programs to improve health in this population.

Author Biographies

Pao-Feng Tsai, PhD, RN, FAAN

Professor and Associate Dean for Research, College of Nursing, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Alison H. Oliveto, PhD

Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas

Reid D. Landes, PhD

Professor, Department of Biostatistics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas

Michael J. Mancino, MD

Professor and Director, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Addiction Services and Treatment, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas


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How to Cite

Tsai, P.-F., A. H. Oliveto, R. D. Landes, and M. J. Mancino. “Characteristics of Patients Undergoing Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder and Their Interest in Tai Chi Practice”. Journal of Opioid Management, vol. 19, no. 4, Aug. 2023, pp. 329-41, doi:10.5055/jom.2023.0790.