Buprenorphine abuse and health risks in Iran: A systematic review

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Sep 1:226:108871. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108871. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Introduction: Buprenorphine maintenance treatment (BMT) is widely used in Iran, and its use is growing continuously. We reviewed studies on buprenorphine use, non-prescribed use, use disorder and treatment-seeking for it, buprenorphine-associated poisoning, and mortality in Iran in the current systematic review.

Methods: An Iranian database (Scientific Information Database; SID) and three International electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science) were searched for publications up to August 2020 for the relevant data. Opportunistic methods (Contact with experts and backward citation tracking) were also used for this purpose. Identified records were screened for eligibility criteria, and data of included studies were extracted. For context, the trend of BMT in the country was also examined.

Results: Ten studies were found on the prevalence of non-prescribed buprenorphine use, seven were on the regular use and use disorder, and two studies on buprenorphine poisoning. The last 12-month prevalence of non-prescribed use was lower than 0.5 % in the general population, university, and high school students. The indicator was 2.5 % among persons who use drugs in a 2018 national study. The proportion of buprenorphine poisoning was 4.9 % among all illicit substance poisoning cases admitted to a hospital. The proportion of buprenorphine poisoning cases among all acute pediatric drug poisoning cases increased from 1.2 % to 2.5 % in a 3-year study.

Conclusion: Despite the expansion of BMT in Iran in the last decade, the adverse health consequences associated with buprenorphine are infrequent, when compared to other opioids used in Iran, suggesting the safety of BMT for future expansion.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Epidemiology; Mortality; Opioid agonists; Overdose; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine