Buprenorphine Side Effects

Like any other medication, patients have reported side effects after using buprenorphine. The most commonly reported side effects are not serious and go away on their own. Consult with the prescribing physician if your buprenorphine side effects are bothersome or persistent.

Common side effects:

  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushing
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sleeplessness
  • Stomach Pain
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Discontinue buprenorphine immediately and seek medical help if you experience any serious side effects, such as:

  • Severe Allergic Reactions
  • Anxiety or Nervousness
  • Blurred Vision
  • Confusion
  • Dark Urine
  • Decreased Attention
  • Fainting
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Loss of Coordination
  • Mental or Mood Changes, Especially Depression
  • Pale Stools
  • Persistent Trouble Sleeping
  • Severe or Persistent Dizziness or Drowsiness
  • Severe or Persistent Stomach Pain or Constipation
  • Slow or Shallow Breathing
  • Slowed Reflexes
  • Slurred Speech
  • Swelling of the Hands, Ankles or Feet
  • Yellowing of the Eyes or Skin.

Patients taking buprenorphine report side effects involving the central nervous system, or CNS. The most common CNS side effect is sedation, affecting about 60 percent of patients. Taking other CNS depressants such as narcotic analgesics, alcohol, tranquilizers and some antidepressants increases CNS depression associated with buprenorphine. Some patients report insomnia. Dizziness, vertigo and headache have been reported in 5 to 10 percent of patients. Less than one percent of patients report confusion, weakness, nervousness, fatigue, slurred speech and abnormal skin sensations such as burning or tingling.

Buprenorphine may increase cerebrospinal fluid pressure and produce changes in level of consciousness in patients. Individuals have also reported somnolence, or extreme sleepiness, ringing in the ears, agitation and tremor. Patients have experienced coma or seizures after taking buprenorphine.

Injectable and sublingual buprenorphine, even at therapeutic doses, may cause respiratory system side effects, such as respiratory depression. Intravenous use of buprenorphine may cause death, especially if used concurrently with alcohol or other CNS depressants. Other respiratory system side effects are associated with buprenorphine, including hypoventilation, dyspnea, cyanosis and apnea.

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal side effect associated with buprenorphine, with approximately 12 percent of buprenorphine reporting constipation and 3 percent complaining of diarrhea. About 15 percent of patients report nausea and 7.5 percent say they vomited after taking buprenorphine. Buprenorphine may increase intrachledochal pressure, or pressure near the bile duct. Urinary retention occurs in less than 1 percent of patients.

Patients have reported hypersensitivity reactions after taking buprenorphine, complaining of rash, hives, itching, bronchospasms, the skin problem known as angioneurotic edema and severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock. About 15 percent of patients using buprenorphine patches have reported itching near the application site. Other side effects associated with buprenorphine patches include redness and rash.

Buprenorphine may cause cardiovascular side effects, such as vasodilation and the blood pressure problem, orthostatic hypotension. Buprenorphine may cause endocrine side effects such as sweating, ocular side effects such as blurred vision, conjunctivitis or pink eye, amblyopia or lazy eye and pinpoint pupils.

Less than one percent of patients taking buprenorphine report psychiatric side effects such as euphoria, depersonalization, depression, dreaming and psychosis. Patients taking buprenorphine by mouth or under their tongue have reported auditory and visual hallucinations.

One notable side effect of buprenorphine is withdrawal syndrome. More than 25 percent of patients taking buprenorphine experienced withdrawal syndrome; more than 37 percent of patients taking a placebo reported withdrawal symptoms once they stopped taking the medication. Buprenorphine may cause withdrawal symptoms in opioid dependent individuals. Chronic administration of buprenorphine, such as using it as an opioid replacement, increases likelihood of developing withdrawal symptoms.

Talk with the prescribing physician to weigh the risks versus the benefits of using buprenorphine, especially if you are sensitive to its side effects. Your physician may recommend a different approach to managing your opioid addiction rather than using buprenorphine, such as rapid detox.