Buprenorphine: How to use it right

Rolley E. Johnson, Eric C. Strain, Leslie Amass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


The unique pharmacology of buprenorphine at the mu-opioid receptor (i.e. high affinity, low intrinsic activity and slow dissociation) results in buprenorphine having: (1) a good safety profile, (2) low physical dependence, and (3) flexibility in dose scheduling. Early studies assessed the effectiveness of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence using a sublingual solution formulation. More recently, a combination tablet (buprenorphine/naloxone in a 4:1 ratio) has been assessed with the goal of decreasing diversion and abuse. Controlled studies with buprenorphine solution, buprenorphine mono-tablet, and buprenorphine/naloxone combination tablet have uniformly demonstrated the effectiveness of buprenorphine for opioid dependence treatment and the combination tablet appears to decrease (but not eliminate) abuse potential. There is general agreement across studies regarding buprenorphine induction and maintenance dose schedules. The clinical effects of buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone are similar and most patients can be treated initially with and maintained on a daily buprenorphine/naloxone dose of 4:1-24:6 mg. Dosing is possible on a less-than-daily schedule; however, multiples of the daily-dose should be administered to cover the increased interval between doses. If buprenorphine withdrawal is indicated, gradual dose reduction is recommended over a rapid dose reduction or abrupt cessation. Both tablet formulations are approved by the US FDA for opioid dependence treatment as Schedule III narcotics and are, therefore, available for use in office-based practice. The buprenorphine plus naloxone combination product should provide additional safeguards for use in office-based practice by decreasing risk of diversion, and office-based treatment should expand the availability of services to opioid dependent patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S59-S77
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - May 21 2003


  • Buprenorphine
  • Buprenorphine/naloxone
  • Dose reduction
  • Induction
  • Maintenance
  • Opioid dependence
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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