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.

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

In South Australia a medical practitioner does NOT need to be accredited to prescribe buprenorphine with naloxone in film form for up to ten patients for opioid dependence.

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.

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®)

Additional clinical resources are provided below.

A medical practitioner must become ACCREDITED if they wish to:

  • prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone film for more than ten patients at one time 


  • prescribe:
    • methadone liquid
    • buprenorphine as a single agent (Subutex®) or
    • DEPOT buprenorphine.

For more information go to GP Program - SA - MATOD Prescriber training and annual education event page or contact the GP Program Project Coordinator: (08) 7425 5045.


Further information and advice

DACAS provides a telephone and email service for South Australian health professionals seeking clinical information and clarification around clinical procedures, guidelines and evidence-based practice.

Telephone: (08) 7087 1742 from 8:30am — 10pm 7 days/week including public holidays or e-mail your enquiry to:
Out of these hours, medically urgent calls from a hospital based Medical Consultant or country hospital medical officer/GP will always receive a response.

This service does not provide proxy medical cover and cannot assume responsibility for direct patient care.

Office hours

  • Drugs of Dependence Unit telephone 1300 652 584 (office hours)
    Provides advice on prescribing from a regulatory view point.

Other services

Clinical guidelines

Assessment and induction onto MATOD

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

  • Letter of Introduction of Patient to Pharmacist (PDF 17KB)
    This letter can be used after you have telephoned the pharmacist about a new patient. It is best to give the pharmacist as much clinical information as possible.
  • Patient handbooks Prescribers can obtain copies of the following handbooks by contacting the GP Program Project Officer on (08) 7425 5045 or e-mail:
    • Suboxone Sublingual film buprenorphine hydrochloride/naloxone hydrochloride: A Guide to Treatment.

Accredited prescribers only:

    • The Methadone Handbook (Fifth Edition)

Drug of Dependence - MATOD forms and policy

To be used by both accredited and non-accredited prescribers.
To obtain the legally required Section 18A Controlled Substance Act 1984 (SA) authority to prescribe a drug of dependence for the treatment of opioid dependence, an initial application form must be filled in on both sides, signed by the prescriber and patient and faxed to the Drugs of Dependence Unit (DDU) at 1300 658 447. Then telephone DDU on 1300 652 584 (office hours) who will provide the authority number which can be written on the prescription.

Management tools