Addressing Opioid Addiction and the Overdose Epidemic

A person in the United States—perhaps someone you know—just died from an opioid overdose. In 12 more minutes and every 12 minutes thereafter, another person will die from an opioid overdose.

In fact, more Americans this year will die from a drug overdose than any other accidental death, including from a motor vehicle accident and gun homicide.

In 2016—the latest year for which data are available—64,070 people in the United States died from a drug overdose, two-thirds (42,249) of which involved opioids.

Sadly, these deaths are completely avoidable. Medications exist that, when taken in combination with counseling, can greatly reduce—even eliminate—opioid dependence and overdose risk for the more than 2 million Americans who are dependent on opioids.

Treating Opioid Addiction with Buprenorphine

DSG, beginning in 2015, has operated the DATA Waiver Processing and Support Program for SAMHSA. Our work includes

  • Maintaining, updating, and improving the Buprenorphine Waiver Notification System and the Buprenorphine Web board;
  • Responding to physicians’, pharmacists’, and others’ questions related to buprenorphine;
  • Maintaining and analyzing the national dataset of waivered practitioners to help inform SAMHSA’s recruitment and practitioner engagement efforts;
  • Maintaining and updating an informational website on buprenorphine, including a physician locator;
  • Monitoring and approving physician discussions on the Buprenorphine Web board;
  • Providing ad hoc reporting support to SAMHSA;
  • Providing training for SAMHSA;
  • Promoting the program and practitioner engagement over a listserv;
  • Coordinating and collaborating with the Government Performance Reporting Act contractor to report on outcomes;
  • Providing outreach activities to increase the number of physicians who choose to be listed on the locator (neither has this task been initiated under previous contracts); and
  • Processing Notices of Intent Waiver to Prescribe Buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine (also known by the brand names Buprenex, Suboxone, and Subutex) is one used in medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence.

Unlike methadone, which must be administered in an approved clinic under close supervision, buprenorphine (in combination with naloxone) is safe enough for physicians to prescribe to patients to take on their own. As with other FDA-approved opioid-dependence medications, buprenorphine is most effective in combination with counseling, such as behavioral therapy.

The Buprenorphine Waiver Management Program

To prescribe buprenorphine, physicians must obtain a waiver from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Prior to the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000, to be able to prescribe buprenorphine, physicians would have to first register their practices as narcotic treatment programs—a process that is intensive and not always appropriate, depending on the nature of physicians’ practices.

The Buprenorphine Waiver Management Program Today

Are you looking for help with opioid dependence? SAMHSA maintains an online opioid treatment program directory.

For More Information About the Buprenorphine Waiver Management Program

Contact DSG Project Director Sean Meredith at 301.951.0056 or