GP Program - Medication assisted treatment for opioid dependence

Prescribing medications for opioid dependence

South Australia has approximately 3000 people prescribed methadone liquid or buprenorphine with naloxone in film form (Suboxone®) to assist with the management of their opioid dependence.

Approximately two thirds of these patients are managed by community prescribers - the majority of these are general practitioners (GPs).

Prescribing medications for opioid dependence is not complicated, however, there are some specific issues around the medications themselves, and about caring for people with opioid dependence that need to be considered when prescribing this treatment.

The GP Program provides support to prescribers of medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence ( MATOD). This support includes the provision of initial training, clinical resources and educational support.

Further information and advice

  • Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service (DACAS) telephone (08) 7087 1742.
    Provides 24-hour clinical advice from senior medical staff, regarding opioid dependent patients and patients with other drug and alcohol related issues
  • See the tabs below for information about MATOD Clinical Resources and Suboxone® prescribing.
  • Visit GP Program - SA - MATOD Prescriber training and annual education event for information about becoming a prescriber.

Office hours

  • Drugs of Dependence Unit telephone 1300 652 584 (office hours)
    Provides advice on prescribing from a regulatory view point.
  • GP Program Project Co-ordinator: (08) 7425 5045
  • Email:

Other services


Clinical resources

National Clinical Guidelines

The National Guidelines for Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence cover the use of methadone, buprenorphine, buprenorphine/naloxone and naltrexone all in one guideline. This document replaces previous full and abbreviated guidelines for these medications. Information on the assessment of opioid withdrawal, including the Subjective Opiate Withdrawal Scale (SOWS), the Objective Opiate Withdrawal Scale (OOWS) and the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) is included in Appendix 2.

Assessment and induction onto MATOD

Please contact the GP Program Project Officer for copies of this form on (08) 7425 5045 or email:

Drugs of Dependence - Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence ( MATOD) forms and policy

Management tools – related to MATOD

  • Medications for Symptomatic Opiate Withdrawal (SOW) Management (PDF 52KB)
    In many instances, withdrawal may need to be managed with symptomatic medication rather than with buprenorphine. This list outlines what is used currently at DASSA for symptomatic relief of opioid withdrawal. Of course, in most situations buprenorphine-assisted detox is preferable.
  • Prescription Review (PDF 51KB)
    This form is used for recording review consultations with patients established on opioid pharmacotherapy.
  • Maintenance Pharmacotherapy - Stabilisation / Withdrawal (including Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale) (PDF 97KB)
    This form is used in the first days of stabilisation and includes a running sheet on one side, together with a COWS assessment tool for each day for recording the patient’s subjective assessment of withdrawal.
  • Methadone  drug to drug interactions (including QTc Prolongation) (DOC 52KB) 
    This information sheet provides information about drug-to-drug interactions include QTc prolongation, for health practitioners involved in patient care where methadone is prescribed. Please insert your practice details into the document.
  • Urine drug screening: its use in determining patient progress (PDF 88KB)
    Provides information on your patients substance use related problems.
  • Benzodiazepine Dose Equivalents (PDF 187KB)
    This list allows the clinician to convert doses among benzodiazepines.
  • Opioid dose Equivalence: Calculation of oral Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose (oMEDD). Please note the caveats that accompany the table.
    Table and full reference is available at the Faculty of Pain Medicine ANZCA.
  • Contact information for MATOD patients
    You may wish to include this in your patient’s file, put a copy in your practice policy folder, and/or laminate a copy for your consulting room.
  • Monitoring of patient prescriptions from other doctors (PDF 42KB)
    It is important to be aware of other drugs the patient may be using when prescribing methadone or buprenorphine due to possible drug interactions. Patients may provide information about their other drug use along with Urine Drug Screens (UDS).
    There are systems in place that may provide you with additional sources of information about your patient. Patients may provide more accurate information if they know that you can check the information they give you.
    The systems listed in the attached document above appear to be extensive, however, once the initial paperwork has been completed, accessing the information is relatively straightforward. The GP Program Project Officer has put together packs with all the relevant forms and additional information that you may require. Please contact the GP Program Project Officer for a copy of this pack on (08) 7425 5045 or email:
  • Insomnia Management Kit
    The Insomnia Management Kit is designed to be used by GPs with patients who report sleep problems. The information in the Insomnia Management Kit will assist GPs in the assessment, diagnosis and management of patients presenting for the first time with a sleep problem. The Kit is composed of a series of fact sheets that can be downloaded for use with patients.

Other resources

Accredited prescribers can obtain copies of the following resources by contacting the GP Program Project Officer on (08) 7425 5045 or email:

Understanding Suboxone prescribing

Prescribing buprenorphine with naloxone in film form (Suboxone®) for opioid dependence (non-accredited prescribing)

Buprenorphine with naloxone in film form (Suboxone®) has a perceived safer profile than methadone or buprenorphine (Subutex®) as a single agent. In South Australia a medical practitioner does not need to be accredited to prescribe buprenorphine with naloxone in film form for up to five patients for opioid dependence in South Australia.

Medical practitioners need to obtain a Section 18A Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA) authority (PDF 185KB) from the SA Health Drugs of Dependence Unit prior to prescribing a drug of dependence for the treatment of opioid dependence. This authority must be obtained before treatment commences.

The Drugs of Dependence Unit can be contacted on 1300 652 584 Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

The following resources provide further information about prescribing this drug. Additional clinical resources are provided below.

This document can be used as a checklist of steps to be taken when patients are being initiated into medication assisted treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone®)

A medical practitioner must become accredited if they:

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