A recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) examined the efficacy of buprenorphine maintenance versus tapering and discontinuation of the drug.
The study was conducted over fourteen weeks on 113 patients with prescription opioid dependence and concluded that ongoing buprenorphine maintenance is more effective than tapering in treating opioid-dependent patients in a primary care setting (Fiellin et al., 2014; NIDA, 2014). According to NIDA, “participants whose buprenorphine was tapered over a nine-week period of time (after six weeks of stabilization) were more likely to relapse and drop out of treatment compared to those maintained on the medication” (2014).
These results suggest that buprenorphine tapering should be used “only when it is clinically indicated” (NIDA, 2014). More research is needed to determine successful tapering practices.
Fiellin, D. A., Schottenfeld, R. S., Cutter, C. J., Moore, B. A., Barry, D. T., & O’Connor, P. G. (2014). Primary care-based buprenorphine taper vs. maintenance therapy for prescription opioid dependence: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(12), 1947–54.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2014). Buprenorphine tapering less effective than ongoing maintenance for prescription opioid abuse. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2014/11/buprenorphine-tapering-less-effective-than-ongoing-maintenance-prescription-opioid-abuse