In France, all registered medical doctors have been allowed to prescribe buprenorphine without any special education or licensing since 1995. This has led to a rapidly increasing number of opiate-dependent users under buprenorphine treatment in primary care. French physician compensation mechanisms, pharmacy services, and medical insurance funding all have contributed to minimizing barriers to buprenorphine treatment. Approximately 20% of all physicians in France are prescribing buprenorphine to treat more than one half of the estimated 180,000 problem heroin users. Intravenous diversion of buprenorphine may occur in up to 20% of buprenorphine patients and has led to relatively rare overdoses in combination with sedatives, whereas total opiate overdose deaths have declined substantially. In France, buprenorphine maintenance treatment for problem opiate users was feasible and safe through office-based prescriptions in a relaxed regulatory environment.