Buprenorphine Facts

Buprenorphine has been used for years as a treatment for opiate dependency and addiction. This semi-synthetic opioid goes by the trade names Suboxone (buprenorphine hydrochloride, naloxone) and Subutex (buprenorphine). These prescription medications are widely known for the treatment of addiction to opiates including heroin and oxycodone.

Patients are able to switch their use of more potent and potentially more dangerous drugs to buprenorphine without having to go through a long, drawn-out withdrawal. People who become physically and/or psychologically dependent upon their prescription pain meds may have incredible difficulty if they try to stop taking them.

Opiate replacements are intended to help with both cravings and opiate withdrawal. Buprenorphine is said to produce less of a "high." Manufacturers say this could make the drug easier to stop taking when compared to other opiates.

Important Drug Information Regarding Buprenorphine

If you or someone you know has become addicted to a prescription painkiller, you know you have options for getting off of them. One of these is buprenorphine, which has become one of the preferred opiate treatment options for programs offering outpatient "detox."

Some experts argue that this type of treatment is not "detox" at all because patients are not detoxed from opiates by taking a replacement medication. They are able to stop taking the drug to which they've become dependent, but they are still going to be dependent upon opiates. In fact, buprenorphine therapy can become a long-term scenario for many people.

When someone decides to take the leap and seek out help for opiate addiction, many imagine their life completely free of opiates. When given the option of buprenorphine, many just accept it, happy for the prospect of avoiding withdrawal. Some don't think beyond that prospect or to what the risks of this therapy will be.

Buprenorphine is said to have less abuse and addiction potential than other opiates but many people do become dependent and find ways to abuse it. In come cases, people continue taking buprenorphine but return to using other substances. This can have deadly consequences.

What Are The Risks Of Taking Buprenorphine?

One of the most significant and potential side effects of any opiate medication is respiratory depression. Taking too much of a particular opiate can cause breathing problems and this can also happen if opiates (including buprenorphine) are taken with some other substances. These include: Other opiates (including painkillers or heroin), alcohol and some prescription medications.

Buprenorphine can cause dizziness, drowsiness or impaired thinking so there is a warning that patients should use caution when using heavy machinery or driving. The dizzy and drowsy effects of buprenorphine can be dangerously compounded if it's taken with other substances such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Sedatives
  • Anxiety medications
  • Other pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxers

Buprenorphine Side Effects

Prescription painkillers can cause a host of side effects and may depend on the drug, the dosage, the amount taken and the person's individual chemistry. Many side effects that develop soon after use begins will dissipate as a person gets used to the drug. The most common side effect of this drug is sedation, but others can include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Hypotension
  • Hypoventilation

Other, less common side effects can include: confusion, blurred vision, euphoria, weakness/fatigue, dry mouth, nervousness, depression, slurred speech, constipation, visual abnormalities, chills, flushing, urinary retention, hallucinations, depersonalization, rash, tremors, loss of appetite and diarrhea.

It is possible to have an allergic reaction to buprenorphine. If symptoms of rash, labored breathing, hives or facial swelling develop, get help immediately. In rare cases, anaphylactic shock can occur.

This drug can interact negatively with some substances such as other central nervous system depressants and other prescription medications. It's best to read the drug label in its entirety and disclose all medications you are taking when you talk to the prescribing authority. In addition, buprenorphine may not be indicated for use in people who have certain conditions. Check with your doctor to be sure.

Buprenorphine Abuse

Buprenorphine has certain opioid properties that might make it attractive to some people who abuse drugs. Suboxone, for example, was designed in a way to reduce the potential for abuse. It's important that these drugs only be used as directed. Buprenorphine tablets should never be crushed, dissolved or diluted for snorting or injection, and should never be used with other substances in an attempt to heighten the effects of buprenorphine.

Suboxone and Subutex have traditionally been viewed as promising treatments for opiate addiction. However, as more and more cases of abuse are reported, officials have been turning their attention to the diversion and street presence of these drugs. Misuse or abuse of opiates can lead quickly to addiction.

Buprenorphine Dependence And Addiction

This drug is a Controlled Substance based on its potential for abuse and addiction. For many people, this downward spiral begins with an injury or illness that requires therapy with painkillers. People who become dependent may require more and more of the painkillers because of opioid tolerance. If abuse begins, it most likely spirals out of control. Many patients who seek help are presented with the option of buprenorphine, and to many, this is an attractive option.

Taking Suboxone or Subutex for a prolonged period or abusing them can lead to addiction. This usually means that eventually, patients are going to need a second detox. Abuse, lack of control over the drug and compulsive use are all hallmarks of opiate addiction.

Typical drug-seeking behavior can include doctor shopping (the practice of visiting multiple doctors to get drugs), diversion, prescription fraud and theft. Someone who is engaging in these practices is likely addicted to opiates.

Buprenorphine Withdrawal Can Seem Unbearable For Some People

Someone who is dependent and tries to stop taking buprenorphine will likely experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Goose bumps
  • Rigid muscles
  • Shivering
  • Tremors

The prospect of enduring withdrawal is almost too much to bear for some people. They may give up quickly after trying to get clean because of the physical and psychological discomfort of opiate withdrawal. Unfortunately, opiate detox brings with it a high rate of relapse if people try to stop using these drugs on their own. Relapse is still possible following professional detox services, but the risk for this can be lessened if you choose the right program.

Buprenorphine Overdose

All opiates can cause an overdose under certain conditions, and this can be fatal. This can occur if you take too much of a drug, use it in a way that goes against recommendations or combine it with certain substances that can lead to breathing problems and possible death.

If you suspect someone is overdosing on buprenorphine, please call emergency medical personnel as soon as possible. The signs can include: labored breathing, seizures, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, confusion, cold or clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, convulsions, low blood pressure, slow heartbeat and lasting vomiting or nausea.

People are especially prone to overdose during a buprenorphine relapse. This is because a person's tolerance to the drug drops after he or she stops taking it. A return to use at this point can spell trouble because a person may not be able to handle a dosage they used to tolerate easily.

Buprenorphine Treatment Options

People who have been using or abusing buprenorphine and are dependent should seek out a professional treatment program to maximize the odds of safe and successful recovery. There are plenty of options, but not all of them may be a wise choice.

Traditional opiate detox uses any combination of services that may include treatment with pharmaceuticals to help during withdrawal, therapy and group sessions. This can be offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Rapid opiate detoxification is another option that if done properly, can bring quick and lasting relief from buprenorphine dependence. This treatment refers to a procedure that is usually done in the hospital under the close watch of a medical staff. It is performed while patients are deeply sedated and they are not consciously aware that withdrawal develops and passes while they are out. The whole process takes less than two hours and patients awake and withdrawal is behind them.

Any kind of detox that addresses the physical opiate dependency should be followed up by an aftercare program to address the psychological dependence. This can provide an added measure of support for patients during the recovery process.

There Is Reason For Hope: Buprenorphine Addiction Can Be Treated

There is no reason to suffer any longer with opiate dependence or addiction. This problem is a treatable one and long-term success is possible.

You must take the first step and research the options available to you. You can get your life back and before you know it, you can feel better than you have in a long time.