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Benefits and Side Effects of Using Buprenorphine | Methadonedocs Addiction Treatment Forum



What is Buprenorphine? It is an opiod with semi-synthetic components therapeutically used in the management of addiction and dependence to opiods including heroin, morphine and narcotic painkillers. Reduced dosages are used to manage pain whether it is acute or chronic.  It is marketed under the trade names of Suboxone, Subutex, Temgesic, Buprenex, Butrans and Norspan. 


Reckitt and Colman introduced Buprenorphine preparations as analgesics under the trade names-Buprenex and Temgesic in the 1980s. The Food and Drug Administration also issued the approval of Subutex and Suboxone in 2002. These two sublingual pill preparations of drugs are indicated for long-term replacement treatment and detoxification of patients with opiod dependence. The use of these drugs was made possible by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 maintaining that drug maintenance and detoxification treatments are forms of medical treatment.


How Buprenorphine works

Buprenorphine has a unique drug mechanism: unlike other opiates, it binds more powerfully to brain receptors thereby making it very difficult for other opiates to produce chemical reactions once Buprenorphine is taken. This drug prevents the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using opioids like morphine and heroin by producing effects similar to these drugs.

Because Buprenorphine is considered as an opioid partial agonist its maximum effects are lesser compared to full agonists like methadone and heroin. Consequently, the characteristic effects and side effects of opioid agonist like respiratory depression, euphoria and other serious effects are minimized.

A person can discontinue the use of opiods without experiencing withdrawal symptoms by using low dose buprenorphine. It works by producing adequate agonist effects that increases linearly as the doses of Buprenorphine increases until it reaches the moderate dose required to reach a plateau. When this "ceiling effect" phase is reached, doses are no longer increased by the user. Compared to full agonists, the chance of overdose is doubtful.


Benefits of Buprenorphine

It carries a lower risk of abuse and addiction than full opiod agonists like methadone and heroin. The side-effects are also minimal in contrast to other opiods. It also blocks the effects of full opiod agonsits. Once this drug is taken, it precipitates withdrawal symptoms when an individual uses full opiod agonists. This drug mechanism discourages an individual from taking opiods while on Buprenorphine treatment.

This drug is also used in the treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome or withdrawal condition of babies exposed to opiods while inside their mothers' womb. However, it is essential that these infants are enrolled in clinical experiment under the investigational new drug application approved by the FDA.


Important Considerations


Buprenorphine can cause side effects.

Mild side effects:

•       Constipation

•       Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

•       Headache

•       Stomach pain

•       Sweating

•       Vomiting


Serious/fatal side-effects that require prompt medical attention:


•       Difficulty breathing or swallowing

•       Extreme tiredness

•       Flu-like symptoms

•       Hives

•       Itching

•       Lack of energy

•       Loss of appetite

•       Pain in the upper right part of the stomach

•       Skin rash

•       Slowed breathing

•       Unusual bleeding or bruising

•       Upset stomach

•       Yellowing of the skin or eyes


Buprenorphine has opioid agonist effects and can be abused by people who are not addicted physically to opiod drugs.

Buprenorphine may cause precipitated withdrawal syndrome. The following are signs of opioid withdrawal:


•       Craving

•       Diarrhea

•       Distress/irritability

•       Dysphoric mood

•       Insomnia

•       Lacrimation

•       Mild fever

•       Muscle aches/cramps

•       Nausea or vomiting

•       Piloerection

•       Pupillary dilation

•       Rhinorrhea

•       Sweating

•       Yawning


Opioid Addiction Therapy with Buprenorphine


Who may qualify for Buprenorphine Maintenance Therapy?


•       Individual clinically diagnosed with addiction or dependence to opioids

•       Agrees to the buprenorphine therapy after a thorough review of other treatment options

•       Anticipated to be compliant with the medical procedure

•       Consents to follow the safety precautions for buprenorphine treatment

•       Shows no contraindications to the said therapy upon review of patients medical history


Three phases of BMT:

Induction phase: This is administered to opiod addicts in the first phase of withdrawal, usually 12 to 24 hours after opiod abstinence. This procedure is usually started as observed therapy in the doctor's clinic. Depending on the doctor's judgment, Subutex or Suboxone may be prescribed to continue the therapy.

Stabilization phase: There is a need to adjust the dosage of buprenorphine or to switch to alternate-day dosing. This period commences when the patient-

•       Greatly reduced or discontinued drug use

•       Has no more cravings for the drugs

•       Has little or no more side effects

Maintenance phase: This period is varied depending on the patient. It is achieved when the addict is thriving on a constant dosage of buprenorphine. The alternative for the maintenance therapy is medically supervised withdrawal which can be done only with strict medical supervision.


Looking for Buprenorphine treatment centers and/or Buprenorphine doctors close to home? You'll find them in our convenient web directory updated weekly.

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