Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Can Suboxone Induction Be Done at Home?

This recent article investigated whether heroin addicts could make the transition from heroin to buprenorphine at home, rather than in the office. Office-based inductions have been preached as the standard of care. But in this study, most addicts did fine. I've been doing this way for some time now, without a problem. 


 Home- versus office-based buprenorphine inductions for opioid-dependent patients.

Sohler N.L., Li X., Kunins H.V. et al.
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment: 2010, 38, p. 153–159.
Unable to obtain a copy by clicking title above? Try asking the author for a reprint (normally free of charge) by adapting this prepared e-mail or by writing to Dr Sohler at You could also try this alternative source.
Is is safe and will heroin-dependent patients complete the process and stay in treatment if they start buprenorphine maintenance at home rather than being observed and doses adjusted at the clinic? This US study suggests this is feasible, saving time for all concerned, but also hints at possible (in this case, rare) complications.
Summary This US study from the Bronx district of New York documents the induction safety and retention record of a primary care health centre providing buprenorphine/naloxone maintenance treatment for addiction to heroin or other opioids. After two years of offering this treatment, the clinic switched from requiring all patients to start treatment under supervision at the clinic (entailing two to four hours during which the dose was adjusted), to allowing the doctor and patient between them to agree instead that the patient would be given a 'take-home' induction kit to enable them to start their treatment at home. The kit contained enough buprenorphine/naloxone pills for patients to themselves build up their doses over three days so they no longer felt withdrawal symptoms, other medicines to help control withdrawal symptoms, plus instructions. They were scheduled to return to the clinic within the week to discuss longer term treatment.
In the first two years 28 patients were inducted on to buprenorphine/naloxone at the clinic. In the next two, 51 patients opted with their doctors for home-based inductions and 36 were inducted as before at the clinic. The study compares initial experiences of all those inducted at the clinic with those inducted at home, 115 patients in all. About 70% had been using heroin, nearly all were Hispanic or black, and over two thirds were unemployed.

Main findings

In the second two years when home inductions were available, patients who with their doctors opted for these were more likely to have had previous experience of buprenorphine treatment. Those who opted to be inducted at the clinic were more often of Hispanic descent, unemployed, had only state-provided health insurance, and had recently used cocaine or sedatives or benzodiazepines.
Across all the patients, about 17% experienced difficult inductions regardless of whether inducted at home or at the clinic. Only one patient (in the home-based induction group) was hospitalised immediately following induction. This was due to complications secondary to benzodiazepine abuse which the patient had not fully disclosed. Tests did not reveal any clinically significant disturbance of liver function following inductions. A month later virtually the same proportions of patients (78%) remained in treatment regardless of the induction site. This result was essentially unaltered when differences between patients who opted for induction at home versus at the clinic were taken in to account.

The authors' conclusions

In a health centre that serves an economically disadvantaged community, people treated for opioid dependence with home-based buprenorphine inductions were as likely to be retained in treatment for 30 days as those with traditional clinic-based inductions. There was also no indication that either induction type was associated with greater difficulties with the induction process. The implication is that both office- and home-based buprenorphine inductions are feasible in the primary care setting.
The findings reflect the ability of patients and providers to select the induction type best suited to the patient's needs, abilities, and beliefs about health care. Given the importance of the induction process for longer term opioid addiction management, these data should be encouraging providers to consider treating opioid-dependent patients in primary care.

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