Inability to access buprenorphine treatment as a risk factor for using diverted buprenorphine

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Dec 1;126(3):379-83. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.05.025. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


Background: As buprenorphine prescribing has increased in the United States so have reports of its diversion. The study purpose was to examine frequency and source of and risk factors for diverted buprenorphine use over a 6-month period in an Appalachian community sample of prescription opioid abusers.

Methods: There were 503 participants at baseline; 471 completed the 6-month follow-up assessment. Psychiatric disorders and demographic, drug use, and social network characteristics were ascertained at baseline and follow-up. Multivariable logistic regression was used to determine the predictors of diverted buprenorphine use over the 6-month period.

Results: Lifetime buprenorphine use "to get high" was 70.1%. Nearly half (46.5%) used diverted buprenorphine over the 6-month follow-up period; among these persons, 9.6% and 50.6% were daily and sporadic (1-2 uses over the 6-months) users, respectively. The most common sources were dealers (58.7%) and friends (31.6%). Predictors of increased risk of use of diverted buprenorphine during the 6-month follow-up included inability to access buprenorphine treatment (AOR: 7.31, 95% CI: 2.07, 25.8), meeting criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, and past 30 day use of OxyContin, methamphetamine and/or alcohol.

Conclusions: These results suggest that improving, rather than limiting, access to good quality affordable buprenorphine treatment may be an effective public health strategy to mitigate buprenorphine abuse. Future work should evaluate why more persons did not attempt to access treatment, determine how motivations change over time, and how different motivations affect diversion of the different buprenorphine formulations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appalachian Region / epidemiology
  • Buprenorphine / supply & distribution
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narcotics / supply & distribution
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine