Polysubstance Use among Patients Treated with Buprenorphine from a National Urine Drug Test Database

Brendan Saloner, Penn Whitley, Leah Larue, Eric Dawson, Angela Huskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Polysubstance use is a concern for patients treated for opioid use disorder (OUD). While buprenorphine can curtail harmful opioid use, co-occurring use of nonprescribed substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and other opioids, may negatively affect treatment outcomes. Objective: To characterize factors associated with urine drug positivity for nonprescribed substances among patients prescribed buprenorphine. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study included patients who had been prescribed buprenorphine and who provided urine specimens for urine drug testing (UDT), as ordered by clinicians in primary care or behavioral health or at substance use disorder treatment centers, from 2013 to 2019. Specimens were analyzed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to assess positivity for several commonly used substances. Exposures: Buprenorphine prescription. Main Outcomes and Measures: Positivity for buprenorphine and several nonprescribed substances. Unadjusted trends in positivity for each nonprescribed substance were compared between specimens that did and did not test positive for buprenorphine. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with positivity; factors included patient age, sex, setting of care, payer, collection year, and census division. Results: The study included first UDT specimens from 150000 patients, of whom 82107 (54.74%) were men and 77300 (51.53%) were aged 18 to 34 years. Across all specimens, 128240 (85.49%) were positive for buprenorphine, and 71373 (47.58%) were positive for 1 or more nonprescribed substances. From 2013 to 2019, positivity rates increased for most substances (eg, fentanyl: from 131 of 21412 [0.61%] to 1464 of 13597 [10.77%]). Factors associated with positivity varied widely by substance; for example, fentanyl positivity was highest for men (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.06-1.21), patients aged 18 to 24 years (OR for patients ≥55 years, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.39-0.54), patients living in New England (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.07-1.33), and patients with Medicaid (OR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.11-1.31), whereas oxycodone positivity was greatest for women (OR for men, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.79-0.89), patients older than 55 years (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.22-1.64), patients living in the South Atlantic (OR, 1.45, 95% CI, 1.33-1.58), and patients with private insurance (OR for Medicaid, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.73-0.84). Patients whose specimens were positive for buprenorphine were significantly less likely to be positive for other opioids (eg, fentanyl: OR for buprenorphine-negative samples, 6.71; 95% CI, 6.29-7.16; heroin: OR for buprenorphine-negative samples, 9.93; 95% CI, 9.31-10.59). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, patterns of nonprescribed substance positivity among patients prescribed buprenorphine varied widely. This study highlights the utility of UDT in public health surveillance efforts related to patients treated with buprenorphine for OUD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2123019
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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