Heroin dependence is a major health and social problem associated with increased morbidity and mortality that adversely affects social circumstances, productivity, and healthcare and law enforcement costs. In the UK and many other Western countries, both methadone and buprenorphine are recommended by the relevant agencies for detoxification from heroin and for opioid maintenance therapy. However, despite obvious benefits due to its unique pharmacotherapy (eg, greatly reduced risk of overdose), buprenorphine has largely failed to overtake methadone in managing opioid addiction. The experience from the developing world (based on data from India) is similar. In this article we compare the advantages and disadvantages of the use methadone and buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid addiction from both a developed and developing world perspective; and explore some of the reasons why buprenorphine has not fulfilled the expectations predicted by many in the addictions field.
Keywords: Addiction; buprenorphine; detoxification; maintenance; methadone; opiate.