Dealing with aggressive methadone patients in community pharmacy: a critical incident study

Amy L. Irwin, Christianne M. Laing, Kathryn J. Mearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Community pharmacists are an important link between methadone patients and the health service in the United Kingdom. However, many pharmacists feel ill prepared to deal with methadone patients, with aggressive behavior a particular concern.

To assess the perceived impact of methadone patient aggression on pharmacy practice.

Sixteen registered pharmacists with a minimum of 3 years’ work experience were recruited from within 3 Scottish health boards. Critical incident interviews were conducted to assess pharmacist behavior during an interaction with an aggressive methadone patient.

Factors considered by pharmacists to have a negative impact on an interaction with an aggressive methadone patient included intoxication of the patient, the presence of a new or an inexperienced pharmacist, and a restricted time frame for dispensing methadone. Positive factors when dealing with aggressive patients were authoritative behavior by the pharmacist, a separate dispensing area for methadone patients, or a solid counter and a positive relationship between pharmacist and patient.

Aggression from methadone patients is a risk when dispensing methadone. However, action can be taken by the pharmacist to minimize the impact of that aggression on pharmacy practice. The provision of further training and support, particularly to inexperienced pharmacists, could further reduce the negative impact of patient aggression. The present study indicates that such training could be based on nontechnical skills to strengthen current leadership and teamwork behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-551
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • methadone
  • pharmacy
  • aggression
  • nontechnical skills


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