Buprenorphine is a prescription medication used to treat pain and opioid use disorder. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain in adults and is only prescribed if other pain management treatments are ineffective.  

When used to treat opioid addiction, it works by curbing cravings to use opioids and also reduces withdrawal symptoms. It is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to minimize or quit dependence on heroin, methadone, or morphine (pain reliever). Buprenorphine works best when combined with a comprehensive treatment program that includes counseling, behavioral therapy, and alternative therapies. This provides a holistic approach to treating opioid use dependency and addresses the body and mind for a successful treatment. Buprenorphine is safe, effective, and FDA-approved. The medication can be used during inpatient or outpatient treatment.

What Is Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)?

Opioid use disorder is, also referred to as opioid addiction, is a progressive disease involving physical and psychological reliance on opioids. Some prescription pain drugs and illegal drugs like heroin contain opioids. For the successful treatment of OUD, a whole-person approach is the best, which encompasses medication and psychotherapy. 

OUD is a chronic disease that can cause serious problems for the user, such as overdoses, disability, relapse, and death. OUD signs and symptoms may include some of the following:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Strong desire or urge to take opioids
  • Unsuccessful attempts to control, discontinue or cut down opioid use
  • The need to use higher amounts to get the same effect (tolerance development)
  • Withdrawal side effects from discontinued use, such as chills, nausea, sweating, depression, or insomnia
  • Losing control of how much you have used
  • Using opioids in dangerous situations like driving or operating heavy machinery
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities at work, home, or school due to opioid use effects

Most people find it difficult to stop using opioids because withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. While detoxing can be daunting, buprenorphine can eliminate withdrawal symptoms and increase successful long-term recovery.

How Does Buprenorphine Work?

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist and is usually combined with naloxone, an antagonist (it blocks the effects of opioids). Naloxone also helps lower the risk of buprenorphine misuse. Together, these drugs prevent withdrawal symptoms for patients with opioid dependency by producing similar effects to opioid drugs. The FDA-approved buprenorphine for opioid withdrawal and the maintenance treatment for opioid addiction. 

Since buprenorphine is classified as a long-acting opioid partial agonist, it is used to replace shorter-acting opioids for patients addicted to heroin, oxycodone, hydromorphone, or fentanyl. This means that the drug is released slowly in the patient’s body for a longer duration, with the effects lasting 24 to 36 hours. However, with short-acting periods, patients have to use them three to four times a day. Buprenorphine is chemically similar to opioids and does not cause euphoria like other opioids like morphine. 

How Is Buprenorphine Taken?

Buprenorphine is available in the following forms: 

  • Tablets that are taken every day. These tablets can be buprenorphine on their own or a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine. The tablets are placed under the tongue and left to dissolve.
  • Sublingual and buccal films that are combined with buprenorphine/naloxone. They are taken daily by placing them under the tongue for rapid action and fast absorption. Buccal films are applied between the tongue and cheeks.
  • Long-acting implants that last for six months
  • Extended-release subcutaneous injections, administered weekly or monthly. 
  • Transdermal patches that are placed on the skin for slow, steady release and a continuous effect

Once you take the buprenorphine tablets they will be absorbed into your body via the blood vessels beneath your tongue. You should not eat, drink, swallow, chew or crush them since they will not work as well. If your doctor has prescribed more than one tablet, place both tablets under your tongue simultaneously. 

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully while taking buprenorphine and naloxone. You should not apply or take less or more medication than your doctor prescribes. 

Your doctor may begin your treatment on a low buprenorphine dosage which will be increased for one or two days, and then switched to buprenorphine and naloxone. Your dosage might be increased or decreased depending on your treatment response depending on the type of opioid you were using. Your doctor will determine the best treatment plan for you. Do not discontinue taking buprenorphine and naloxone without informing your doctor.

Buprenorphine Side Effects 

Buprenorphine has the following potential side effects, including and is not limited to: 

  • Constipation
  • Headache 
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness 
  • Nausea and vomiting

You do not have to suffer from OUD anymore. Get opiate addiction treatment for an improved quality of life.