Legal Limitations Associated with Microdosing Buprenorphine

Barbara Andraka-Christou, Matthew Douglas Evans, Beth Tranen, Natasha S. Mendoza

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Background: Opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. continue to increase, largely due to the prevalence of fentanyl, a very powerful opioid, in the illicit drug supply. Buprenorphine treatment is effective for treating opioid use disorder, but it can be challenging for clinicians to introduce buprenorphine treatment to people who use fentanyl due to risks of precipitated withdrawal. Induction could be facilitated through a buprenorphine microdosing approach called “the Bernese method.” Objective: In this commentary, we describe how federal laws inadvertently limit optimal use of the Bernese method and how federal laws could be reformed to facilitate use of the Bernese method. Results: The Bernese method requires patients to continue using the opioid of misuse (e.g., fentanyl) for seven to ten days while receiving very low doses of buprenorphine. Under federal law, the typical office-based buprenorphine prescriber can neither prescribe nor administer fentanyl short-term for buprenorphine induction purposes, essentially forcing patients to continue to temporarily obtain fentanyl via the illicit market. Conclusion: The federal government has already indicated its support for increasing buprenorphine access. We argue that the government should permit short-term dispensing of fentanyl to office-based patients undergoing buprenorphine induction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)956-959
Number of pages4
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023


  • Bernese
  • Induction
  • buprenorphine
  • fentanyl
  • microdosing
  • opioid use disorder
  • withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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