Qualify for a Physician Waiver

Find information on how to qualify for a physician waiver to prescribe or dispense buprenorphine under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000).

Under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), qualified physicians may apply for waivers to treat opioid dependency with approved buprenorphine products in any settings in which they are qualified to practice, including an office, community hospital, health department, or correctional facility. A “qualifying physician” is specifically defined in DATA 2000 as one who is:

  • Licensed under state law (excluding physician assistants or nurse practitioners)
  • Registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to dispense controlled substances
  • Required to treat no more than 30 patients at a time within the first year
  • Qualified by training and/or certification

Also, in order to maintain a waiver, a physician must be capable of referring patients to counseling and other services.

Physician Criteria that SAMHSA Verifies

To qualify for a waiver, a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) must meet any one or more of the following criteria and provide supporting documentation for all that apply:

  • Hold a subspecialty board certification in addiction psychiatry from the American Board of Medical Specialties
  • Hold an addiction certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Hold a subspecialty board certification in addiction medicine from the American Osteopathic Association
  • Have completed required training for the treatment and management of patients with opioid use disorders. This involves not less than eight hours of training through classroom situations, seminars at professional society meetings, electronic communications, or training otherwise provided by ASAM and other organizations. Learn more about the required buprenorphine training for physicians.
  • Have participated as an investigator in one or more clinical trials leading to the approval of a narcotic medication in Schedule III, IV, or V for maintenance or detoxification treatment. The physician’s participation should be confirmed in a statement by the sponsor of the approved medication to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Find drug scheduling definitions from the DEA for scheduled medications.
  • Have other training or experience that the state medical licensing board (of the state in which the physician will provide maintenance or detoxification treatment) considers a demonstration of the physician’s ability to treat and manage patients with opioid dependency.
  • Have completed other training or experience that HHS considers a demonstration of the physician’s ability to treat and manage patients with an opioid dependency. The criteria of HHS for this training or experience will be established by regulation.

DEA Identification and Registration Numbers

Once SAMHSA verifies that the background of a physician is correct and valid, DEA assigns the qualified physician a special identification number. DEA regulations require this identification number and the physician’s regular DEA registration number on all buprenorphine prescriptions for opioid dependence treatment. Under DATA 2000, individual physicians may have a maximum of 30 patients in opioid dependence treatment at a time for the first year. One year after the initial notification is submitted, the physician may submit a second notification of the need and intent to treat up to 100 patients.

Physicians Eligible for a Physician Waiver

The following physicians may apply for a waiver to prescribe or dispense buprenorphine:

Physicians in Correctional Facilities

Medical personnel in correctional facilities serving incarcerated patients may obtain a Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) waiver to provide opioid dependency treatment. State laws and policies vary considerably regarding methadone treatment within correctional facilities. It is assumed that this same variation will occur with the use of buprenorphine in this setting. Medical personnel in correctional facilities must also adhere to DATA 2000’s patient limit requirements.

Physicians in the Federal Government

Physicians employed by an agency of the federal government are also eligible for DATA 2000 waivers. Physicians must have a valid, individually assigned DEA registration number, in addition to a license to practice medicine, verifiable credentials, and training experience.

A physician who is directly employed by the federal government may obtain a DEA number free of charge, without being licensed in the state where the federal facility is located. The physician must have a valid state license in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico.

To receive a DEA number, a physician must complete a DEA registration application that includes the physician's official business address and the name and phone number of the certifying official who can verify the physicians' eligibility for this program. This DEA registration number may only be used for practice within the federal government installation and may not be used for practice outside this setting. Physicians, who are contractors and not federal government employees, are ineligible to apply.

Physicians in Residency Training Programs

The DATA 2000 legislation does not specify that a physician in a residency training program who otherwise meets the qualifications for a waiver is ineligible to apply for and obtain a waiver. Therefore, SAMHSA has granted waivers to physicians in residency training who have unrestricted licenses and the appropriate DEA registration. Individual states may have laws with more restrictive rules regarding who may prescribe or dispense Schedule III narcotic drugs for detoxification or maintenance treatment.

Last Updated: 11/21/2016