A recent study published in the journal Addiction outlines associations identified between buprenorphine treatment duration and three measures among those who discontinued treatment: all-cause mortality, drug overdose, and opioid-related overdose. The main findings include:
Treatment durations of 31–90 and 91–180 days were associated with increased mortality risks compared to longer treatment durations of 181–365 days;
Compared to treatment durations of 6–12 months, those of 3–6 months were associated with an increased incidence of all-cause mortality, drug overdose, and opioid overdose;
Patients who discontinue buprenorphine treatment after 91–180 days are at heightened risk for opioid overdose compared to patients who discontinue after >365 days.
The findings do not suggest support for time limits on buprenorphine treatment nor an optimal period after which patients can safely discontinue treatment. However, the study calls for health systems to update policies on buprenorphine management, reduce patient treatment costs, implement medication first principles, and adopt low treatment threshold practices to encourage treatment retention.