Characterization of diverted buprenorphine use among adults entering corrections-based drug treatment in Kentucky

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2020 Mar 1;208:107837. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107837. Epub 2020 Jan 9.

Abstract

Background: Illicit, medically unsupervised use of buprenorphine (i.e., "diverted use") among vulnerable and underserved populations, such as corrections-involved adults, remains underexplored.

Methods: Survey data (2016-2017) collected as part of a clinical assessment of incarcerated adults entering corrections-based substance use treatment in Kentucky were analyzed. For years examined, 12,915 completed the survey. Removing cases for participants who did not reside in Kentucky for >6 months during the one-year pre-incarceration period (n = 908) resulted in a final sample size of 12,007.

Results: Over a quarter of the sample reported past-year diverted buprenorphine use prior to incarceration and 21.8 % reported use during the 30-days prior to incarceration, using 6.5 months and 14.3 days on average, respectively. A greater proportion of participants who reported diverted buprenorphine use had previously been engaged with some substance use treatment (77.0 %) and reported greater perceived need for treatment (79.4 %) compared to those who did not report use. Use was more likely among participants who were younger, white, male, and who reported rural or Appalachian residence. Diverted buprenorphine users also evidenced extensive polydrug use and presented with greater substance use disorder severity. Non-medical prescription opioid, heroin, and diverted methadone use were associated with increased odds of diverted buprenorphine use while kratom was not. Diverted methadone use was associated with a 252.9 % increased likelihood of diverted buprenorphine use.

Conclusions: Diverted buprenorphine use among participants in this sample was associated with concerning high-risk behaviors and may indicate barriers to accessing opioid agonist therapies for corrections-involved Kentucky residents, particularly those in rural Appalachia.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Diversion; Heroin; Opioid agonist therapies; Polydrug use.