Methadone and buprenorphine (given as a tablet or a liquid) are recommended as treatment options for people who are opioid dependent.

A decision about which is the better treatment should be made on an individual basis, in consultation with the person, taking into account the possible benefits and risks of each treatment for that particular person. If both drugs are likely to have the same benefits and risks, methadone should be given as the first choice.

Different people will need different doses of methadone or buprenorphine. People should take methadone or buprenorphine daily in the presence of their doctor, nurse or community pharmacist for at least the first 3 months of treatment and until they are able to continue their treatment correctly without supervision.

Treatment with methadone or buprenorphine should be given as part of a support programme to help the person manage their opioid dependence.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guidance represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, health professionals are expected to take this guidance fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients. The application of the recommendations in this guidance is at the discretion of health professionals and their individual patients and do not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to provide the funding required to enable the guidance to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients wish to use it, in accordance with the NHS Constitution. They should do so in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities.