Low-threshold Buprenorphine Treatment in a Syringe Services Program: Program Description and Outcomes

J Addict Med. 2022 Jul-Aug;16(4):447-453. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000934. Epub 2021 Nov 12.


Objectives: Low-threshold buprenorphine treatment aims to reduce barriers to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment. We aimed to describe the treatment philosophy, practices, and outcomes of a low-threshold syringe services program (SSP)-based buprenorphine program developed through an SSP-academic medical center partnership.

Methods: We included all SSP participants who received 1 or more buprenorphine prescription from Feb 5, 2019 to October 9, 2020. We collected data on patient characteristics, substance use, buprenorphine prescriptions, and urine drug tests (UDTs). We evaluated buprenorphine treatment retention using prescription data and buprenorphine adherence using UDTs. We used 2 retention definitions: (1) percentage of patients with buprenorphine prescriptions at 30, 90, and 180 days; and (2) total percentage of days "covered" with buprenorphine prescriptions through 180 days.

Results: One-hundred and eighteen patients received 1 or more buprenorphine prescriptions. Patients were largely middle-aged (mean age 44, standard deviation 11), male (68%), Hispanic (31%) or Non-Hispanic Black (32%), with heroin (90%) and crack/cocaine (62%) use, and injection drug use (59%). Retention was 62%, 43%, and 31% at 30, 90, and 180 days, respectively. The median percentage of days covered with buprenorphine prescriptions through 180 days was 43% (interquartile range 8%-92%). Of the 82 patients who completed 2 or more UDTs, the median percentage of buprenorphine-positive UDTs was 71% (interquartile range 40%-100%).

Conclusions: In an SSP-based low-threshold buprenorphine treatment program, approximately one-third of patients continued buprenorphine treatment for 180 days or more, and buprenorphine adherence was high. SSPs can be a pathway to buprenorphine treatment for patients at high risk for opioid-related harms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Program Development
  • Syringes


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine