Exploring nonprescribed use of buprenorphine in the criminal justice system through qualitative interviews among individuals recently released from incarceration

Laura B. Monico, Jan Gryczynski, Joshua D. Lee, Kristi Dusek, Ryan McDonald, Mia Malone, Anjalee Sharma, Anna Cheng, Angela DeVeaugh-Geiss, Howard Chilcoat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Buprenorphine treatment remains unavailable in many jails and prisons, but use of nonprescribed (i.e., diverted) buprenorphine has been reported in these settings. The purpose of this analysis is to explore the experiences and motivations behind the use of diverted buprenorphine among recently incarcerated individuals. Methods: Adults with opioid misuse who were recently released from jail or prison (n= 26; 58% male) completed semi-structured qualitative interviews as part of a study focused on buprenorphine diversion in the criminal justice system. Qualitative interviews explored participants' incarceration experiences and opioid use background, knowledge of buprenorphine and other substance use in jails/prisons, personal use of buprenorphine while incarcerated, reasons for using buprenorphine while incarcerated, and knowledge of how buprenorphine is brought into and acquired in jails/prisons. The study recorded and transcribed interviews, and analyzed the narratives for content related to these predetermined thematic areas. Results: Key themes emerging from the interviews surrounding buprenorphine diversion during incarceration included: 1) the perceived high prevalence of diverted buprenorphine in jail/prison settings, 2) how the perception of prevalence is related to buprenorphine sublingual film formulation, 3) adaptive routes of administration related to the high cost of diverted buprenorphine, and 4) reasons individuals who are incarcerated use diverted buprenorphine (to achieve euphoric effects and cope with confinement, in contrast to using for self-treatment/withdrawal management as is done in the community). Conclusion: Participants reported widespread availability of diverted buprenorphine in criminal justice facilities, and characterized reasons for its use specific to these contexts. More research is needed to determine the impact of expanding buprenorphine treatment in jails and prisons on inmates' use of diverted buprenorphine, and future research should explore these intersections as treatment initiation opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108267
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Buprenorphine
  • Criminal justice
  • Diversion
  • Incarceration
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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