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SAMHSA News - Volume XI, Number 1, Winter 2003

SAMHSA Launches Buprenorphine Education Initiative

SAMHSA launched an initiative this winter to educate physicians and patients about buprenorphine-a new medication to treat addiction to heroin and other opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers. The Food and Drug Administration approved buprenorphine for treatment use in October 2002.

The approval of buprenorphine enables physicians to treat patients, for the first time, in the privacy of their offices rather than at the specialty clinics required to dispense methadone. (See SAMHSA News, summer 2002 and fall 2002.) Service providers hope this will encourage more people to seek treatment.

According to the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, physicians who want to prescribe buprenorphine must get a waiver exempting them from certain Federal requirements pertaining to prescribing controlled substances for addiction treatment. To obtain waivers, licensed physicians must have subspecialty board certification or training in treating and managing opiate-dependent patients. SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is funding training sessions through four medical societies.

SAMHSA launched the "New Paths to Recovery" educational initiative in December with a forum in Washington, DC. Similar events are planned to follow in 14 other cities.

At the heart of the initiative is SAMHSA's new Buprenorphine Information Center. (See end of article for contact information.) At the Web site, for example, physicians can learn more about buprenorphine, check a schedule of upcoming training events, or even take advantage of online training that allows them to become qualified without ever having to leave home.

"Congress wanted the fewest barriers possible for physicians to qualify as buprenorphine prescribers," explained Robert Lubran, M.S., M.P.A., Director of CSAT's Division of Pharmacologic Therapies. "Online courses make it convenient for any physician, including those living in rural areas, to get training."

The Web site also features more specialized resources, for both professionals and the public. There's a "Physician Locator" that potential patients can use to find qualified physicians in their area, for instance. Other resources include an explanation of the waiver process and a waiver notification form, a draft curriculum, and model state medical board policy guidelines.

Other New Paths to Recovery resources are still under development. A forthcoming series of brochures, for example, will allow state governments, medical societies, patient groups, and others to alert their members to buprenorphine's availability. CSAT is also developing clinical practice guidelines and an online training course for drug treatment counselors.

In announcing the initiative, SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., said, "Buprenorphine alone is not a 'silver bullet' for opiate addiction, but it can open the door to recovery by providing more options to people in need of treatment."

For more information, visit SAMHSA's Buprenorphine Information Center at or e-mail A toll-free telephone number-1 (866) BUP-CSAT or 1 (866) 287-2728-is accessible on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., e.s.t.

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