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  • Buprenorphine treatment is often prescribed for patients dealing with forms of opioid use disorder. Brand name prescriptions for buprenorphine include Subutex and the combination products Suboxone, Zubsolv, and Bunavail.

    The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 helped make buprenorphine a more accessible, and thus more effective, treatment of opioid addiction. Along with methadone, buprenorphine is often a part of medication-assisted treatment for OUDs.

    Buprenorphine can reduce withdrawal symptoms of opioids, such as cravings, cramps, and insomnia. The use of buprenorphine will likely be monitored by the medical professionals in charge of your opioid addiction treatment.

    How Buprenorphine Works

    Buprenorphine is classified as a partial agonist of opioid receptors. It acts on the same receptors as most opioids, but is not as powerful as full opioid agonists.

    The effects of buprenorphine are similar to full opioid agonists, which can be helpful for people going through opioid withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms such as cramping, insomnia, dysphoria, and muscle spasms can be reduced with buprenorphine.

    Buprenorphine prescriptions come in buccal or sublingual tablets, which are placed on the cheek or under the tongue and dissolved there.

    Buprenorphine & Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

    Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used in many opioid treatment programs. The goal of MAT is to help patients with their recovery process by using medication to manage symptoms. Products containing buprenorphine, methadone, and naloxone are commonly used in MAT.    

    Buprenorphine is often used as a substitute for illicit opioids, due to its similar formulation and effects. The dose of buprenorphine will often vary depending on the stage of withdrawal treatment. 

    Dosing at the beginning of treatment may depend on the patient’s needs. Once the patient stabilizes, they will usually go on to the stabilization or buprenorphine maintenance phase, where they are given a daily minimum dose to minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

    Side Effects Of Buprenorphine

    Though buprenorphine has a lower abuse potential than full opioids, it still comes with some risks. Some common side effects of buprenorphine are similar to opioid effects, such as:

    • constipation
    • sedation
    • drowsiness
    • nausea
    • dizziness

    Buprenorphine Overdose

    Buprenorphine has a lower risk of opioid overdose than other opioids and opiates, but overdoses are still possible. Symptoms of a buprenorphine overdose include:

    • respiratory depression (slowed breathing)
    • difficulty breathing
    • constricted pupils
    • vomiting

    Many reported buprenorphine overdoses concluded that benzodiazepines were involved at the time of overdose. Doctors prescribing buprenorphine often monitor their patients for signs of illicit or improper drug use to minimize the risk of overdose.

    Buprenorphine & Withdrawal Symptoms

    Buprenorphine can sometimes precipitate, or intensify, withdrawal symptoms in patients who have recently taken opioids. Generally, a clinician or doctor will not give you buprenorphine if you have taken opioids in the last 12 to 24 hours to avoid the risk of acute withdrawal.

    If you are just entering substance abuse treatment, being honest with your doctor or clinician  about your history of opioid use can help you avoid negative health effects, and help you find the most effective treatment.

    Treatment Options For Opioid Dependence And Addiction

    If you’re suffering from long-term opioid abuse, opioids may be doing more harm than good in your life. The treatment of opioid use disorder can be made easier with professional medical help and supervision.

    Many treatment centers offer intensive inpatient care for opioid addiction, where your withdrawal symptoms will be carefully monitored. You may be given medication like buprenorphine, as well as forms of counseling and therapy.

    To find the best treatment for opioid use disorder available to you, talk to your healthcare provider or contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    American Family Physician - Managing Opioid Addiction with Buprenorphine
    Food and Drug Administration - Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
    PubMed Central - Buprenorphine
    PubMed Central - Factors associated with complicated buprenorphine inductions
    Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration - Buprenorphine

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