Summary and Analysis

A study conducted among adults with substance use disorder who were mostly using opioids found that nearly 60 percent reported using diverted buprenorphine. “Diverted” means that a prescription drug was illegally obtained or used for purposes or patients not intended by the prescriber. About a third of those misusing the drug had never received a prescription for buprenorphine from a medical practitioner.

Another important finding in this study was that just over half of the adults studied were using a buprenorphine formula to get high or alter their mood.

It’s important to understand how many people are misusing buprenorphine. First, buprenorphine formulas like Suboxone are widely used in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs for the addicted. Second, there is pressure to greatly expand access to buprenorphine, itself an addictive opioid, which may lead to increased diversion and unintended consequences.

Citing this same study, the addiction policy advocacy group Addiction Policy Forum published an article titled The Paradox of Diverted Buprenorphine in which they note that: “Buprenorphine is the most diverted medication used to treat OUD (Opioid Use Disorder). Buprenorphine diversion … may also contribute to excessive mortality.” (Emphasis added)

Ironically, one of the authors of the study is employed by Indivior, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Suboxone, the most popular form of buprenorphine used in MAT programs.

Excerpted from ScienceDirect

Buprenorphine is approved in many countries for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD), but problems with diversion and abuse exist. There is a need to understand how and why patients use diverted buprenorphine, and whether barriers to access contribute to illicit use.

58% reported a history of diverted buprenorphine use, with 37% never receiving a prescription. Approximately one-half (52%) reported using buprenorphine to get high or alter mood, but few (4%) indicated that it was their drug of choice.