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Original Research

Analysis of barriers to adoption of buprenorphine maintenance therapy by family physicians

Submitted: 20 February 2014
Revised: 16 June 2014
Accepted: 1 July 2014
Published: 4 February 2015

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Author(s) : DeFlavio JR, Rolin SA, Nordstrom BR, Kazal, Jr LA.

Citation: DeFlavio JR, Rolin SA, Nordstrom BR, Kazal, Jr LA.  Analysis of barriers to adoption of buprenorphine maintenance therapy by family physicians. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3019. Available: (Accessed 20 October 2017)


Introduction:  Opioid abuse has reached epidemic levels. Evidence-based treatments such as buprenorphine maintenance therapy (BMT) remain underutilized. Offering BMT in primary care settings has the potential to reduce overall costs of care, decrease medical morbidity associated with opioid dependence, and improve treatment outcomes. However, access to BMT, especially in rural areas, remains limited. This article will present a review of barriers to adoption of BMT among family physicians in a primarily rural area in the USA.
Methods:  An anonymous survey of family physicians practicing in Vermont or New Hampshire, two largely rural states, was conducted. The survey included both quantitative and qualitative questions, focused on BMT adoption and physician opinions of opioids. Specific factors assessed included physician factors, physicians’ understanding of patient factors, and logistical issues.
Results:  One-hundred and eight family physicians completed the survey. Approximately 10% were buprenorphine prescribers. More than 80% of family physicians felt they regularly saw patients addicted to opiates. The majority (70%) felt that they, as family physicians, bore responsibility for treating opiate addiction. Potential logistical barriers to buprenorphine adoption included inadequately trained staff (88%), insufficient time (80%), inadequate office space (49%), and cumbersome regulations (37%). Common themes addressed in open-ended questions included lack of knowledge, time, or interest; mistrust of people with addiction or buprenorphine; and difficult patient population.
Conclusions: This study aims to quantify perceived barriers to treatment and provide insight expanding the community of family physicians offering BMT. The results suggest family physicians are excellent candidates to provide BMT, as most report regularly seeing opioid-addicted patients and believe that treating opioid addiction is their responsibility. Significant barriers remain, including inadequate staff training, lack of access to addiction experts, and perceived efficacy of BMT. Addressing these barriers may lower resistance to buprenorphine adoption and increase access to BMT in rural areas.

Key words: addiction, buprenorphine, family medicine, opioid, treatment access.

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