Buprenorphine Uses, Benefits, and More

Comprehensive Guide to Buprenorphine

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a medication commonly used to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain. It belongs to a class of drugs known as partial opioid agonists, which means that it activates the same receptors in the brain as opioids but to a lesser degree.

Buprenorphine is often used as part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for opioid addiction, which combines medication with counseling and behavioral therapy. It can help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for people to stop using opioids and remain in recovery.

In addition to its use in addiction treatment, buprenorphine is sometimes prescribed for chronic pain. It can be effective for treating pain because of its ability to bind to the same receptors in the brain as opioids, but with a lower risk of addiction and overdose. However, it should be used carefully and under medical supervision due to its potential for abuse and dependence. For pain relief, buprenorphine is usually prescribed as a patch. It can be applied to the skin. The patch is effective for seven days.

Buprenorphine is prescribed in combination with naloxone for the treatment of opioid addiction. It is a sublingual pill that is absorbed easily under the tongue. Since naloxone can lead to withdrawal upon injection, adding it to buprenorphine will prevent misuse/abuse of the drug.

Buprenorphine was approved for clinical use in October 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, this medication is an effective treatment for opioid dependency. Buprenorphine is safe and effective for use under expert guidance and prescription.

Suboxone, the active ingredient in buprenorphine, makes it a safe and effective treatment for individuals addicted to opioids. At analgesic dosage levels, buprenorphine is known to be 20-50 times more potent than morphine.

Types of Buprenorphine

The approved trade names of buprenorphine include:

  • ACT-buprenorphine/naloxone
  • Suboxone
  • TEVA-buprenorphine/naloxone
  • MYLAN-buprenorphine/naloxone

How Buprenorphine Works?

Buprenorphine is known for its unique pharmacological properties. These are helpful in the following:

  • Reduce the potential for misuse
  • Reduce the effects of physical dependency on opioids, including excess cravings and serious withdrawal symptoms
  • Increase safety factors in the event of an overdose

Buprenorphine works as an opioid partial agonist, producing effects similar to euphoria or respiratory depression. However, this drug's effects are weaker than other drugs, such as methadone and heroin. The effects of buprenorphine are known to increase with each dose. This drug's "ceiling effect" significantly reduces the risk of dependency, misuse, and side effects. One of the best things about buprenorphine is its long-acting agent, which means most patients may not require taking it daily.

Conditions and Symptoms Treated by Buprenorphine:

  • Changing friends constantly
  • Being very tired constantly
  • Feeling depressed
  • Spending most of the time alone
  • Being overly energetic
  • Avoiding time with family and friends
  • Eating more than needed or less than usual
  • Losing interest in activities (even favorite ones)
  • Not bathing, changing clothes, or brushing their teeth (staying away from basic hygiene routines)
  • Talking senselessly
  • Talking very fast
  • Experiencing financial hardship
  • Being nervous or cranky
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping at odd hours and for a long time

Benefits and Advantages of Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine treatment offers several benefits and advantages for individuals who are struggling with opioid addiction or chronic pain. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Reduced cravings and withdrawal symptoms: Buprenorphine helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms that can make it difficult for individuals to stop using opioids.
  • Lower risk of overdose: Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it has a lower risk of overdose compared to full agonists like heroin or fentanyl.
  • Reduced risk of diversion: Buprenorphine can be prescribed in an office-based setting, which reduces the risk of diversion (the illegal sale or transfer of medication) that is associated with other opioid medications.
  • Improved treatment retention: Buprenorphine has been shown to improve treatment retention and reduce the likelihood of relapse, which can help individuals to achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
  • Reduced risk of respiratory depression: Unlike full agonists, buprenorphine has a ceiling effect on respiratory depression, which means that it is less likely to cause dangerous breathing problems.
  • Effective for chronic pain: Buprenorphine can be an effective treatment for chronic pain because of its ability to bind to the same receptors as opioids but with a lower risk of addiction and overdose.

Risks and Complications of Buprenorphine

Like all medications, buprenorphine also has side effects. In most cases, the side effects are mild and go away once the patient gets accustomed to the medication.

In case you notice any side effects, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking the medication or alter the dosage without consulting a doctor. Speak to your doctor if you find it challenging to manage the side effects.

Some of the common side effects include:

  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Cold/flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Sleep issues
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Mood swings

Serious side effects:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Yellow skin
  • Yellowing in the whites of the eyes
  • Stomachache
  • Light-colored bowel movements

Buprenorphine Success Rates and Results

Treatment for opioid dependency using buprenorphine is known to be the most effective and safe. It is usually combined with counseling services to increase its effectiveness. The best therapy to use with buprenorphine includes behavioral therapy and self-help programs.

Studies have revealed that buprenorphine is effective but, in some cases, may not be the best treatment choice for patients with high levels of physical dependency. Several factors determine the effectiveness of buprenorphine for an addicted individual. Patients should discuss this with their doctor before stopping the medicine or switching to another drug.

Buprenorphine helps patients get through withdrawal and cope with intense cravings. Treatment is beneficial in altering addictive thinking and transforming it into non-addictive, healthful patterns.

Before, During, and After Buprenorphine

Before giving the first dose of any medication for opioid addiction, the doctor will ask the patient some questions about addiction, general health, and other issues. Patients will also require getting a drug test (urine or saliva). A physical exam and specific tests for diseases are also required before proceeding with the treatment.

Buprenorphine treatment occurs in 3 phases:

  • Stage 1: Also known as the Induction Phase, the treatment is performed by a qualified physician for an individual with opioid dependency who has abstained from using opioids for around 12-24 hours. Buprenorphine can lead to acute withdrawal for patients later in withdrawal and having other opioids in their bloodstream.
  • Stage 2: The Stabilization Phase starts after a patient discontinues or significantly reduces drug misuse. At this stage, the patient does not have cravings. They may experience few side effects. The doctor will adjust the buprenorphine dose to alternate-day dosing.
  • Stage 3: The Maintenance Phase of treatment, which occurs when a patient reacts well to a steady dose of buprenorphine. Patients can engage in further rehabilitation using MAT to prevent relapse.

Opioid dependency with buprenorphine should be combined with counseling services for desired results.

Recovery from Buprenorphine

Treatment with buprenorphine can save a life. It helps handle people struggling with opioid addiction. This medication will help patients get their lives back on track again. It encourages patients to counteract the powerful effects of addiction on the brain and behavior. The primary aim of treatment is to help people get back to social, professional, and family life.

The treatment for opioid addiction may vary depending on a patient's needs. A recovery plan involving buprenorphine and therapy increases the chance of success. The plan supports the patient's recovery by normalizing brain chemistry and relieving cravings. In some cases, it will also prevent withdrawal symptoms.

How long will it take to recover?

Once administered into the body, buprenorphine is broken down by the cytochrome CYP 34A enzymes to an active metabolite. Patients can observe effects within 38 hours following sublingual administration. Most patients would require additional supportive therapy for long-term recovery and to prevent relapse.

Why Choose Larkin?

We aim for a quick, steady, and safe recovery of patients by administering buprenorphine after carefully determining the patient's condition. Our team of medical professionals is board-certified and highly experienced in offering treatment and support for opioid addiction with medication, therapy, and counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Buprenorphine can also be used to provide relief from refractory depression (not approved by FDA).

Opioids affect the brain with three major effects: Reduced respiration, Euphoria, Reduced pain. Buprenorphine also binds to the receptors. However, it binds without a perfect fit by occupying the receptors without all opioid effects. The medicine tricks receptors into thinking it has been satisfied with opioids without causing overpowering feelings of euphoria and significant respiratory depression.

There is potential for addiction to buprenorphine. However, the risk is very low. Some individuals develop the dangerous, uncontrollable compulsion to buprenorphine. Addiction to buprenorphine does not lose control of medication intake. It is also not responsible for uncontrolled compulsions and cravings.

Most individuals use drugs knowingly or unknowingly while self-medicating for an underlying psychiatric condition. When the addiction is being treated, the patient must simultaneously get treated for the psychiatric condition. Buprenorphine can be administered safely under the guidance of a specialist.

The most dangerous risk of under-medicating someone with buprenorphine is death. This risk is related to continuing drug usage due to undertreated cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Patients can notice a significant improvement within 20-30 minutes.

Yes, if indicated for pain, buprenorphine can be a safer choice for patients with active or substance use in the past. It can be administered with a patch or in the form of an injection (intravenous or intramuscular) while in the ED.

Buprenorphine can be used to treat pain and in the ED by clinicians. A waiver is not necessary.

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