Buprenorphine, a partial μ-opioid agonist and κ-opioid antagonist, is recommended as safe and effective maintenance treatment for opioid dependence. It offers the possibility of management in primary care settings. However, its prescription has led to diversion for illicit recreational use and resulted in medical complications and, rarely, fatal overdose in combination with other sedatives. The outcome of buprenorphine maintenance programmes varies from country to country and it is determined by the local therapeutic traditions, regulatory restrictions and existing service provision for opioid misusers. This article addresses the pharmacology of buprenorphine, the benefits and drawbacks of its prescription, service provision for opioid misuse around the world, policy recommendations, and prescribing training requirements.