When used to treat pain, buprenorphine may be given in the form of a patch that is applied to the skin. It provides pain relief for seven days.
When used to treat opioid addiction, buprenorphine is combined with naloxone, usually as a pill that is absorbed under the tongue (sublingual). Because naloxone can cause withdrawal if it is injected, adding it to buprenorphine prevents people from misusing the drug.
What does Buprenorphine do?
Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid drug used to replace the shorter-acting opioids that someone may be addicted to, such as heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl or hydromorphone. Long-acting means that the drug acts more slowly in the body, for a longer period of time. The effects of buprenorphine last for 24 to 36 hours. In contrast, a person who uses short-acting opioids to avoid withdrawal must use three to four times a day.
When taken at the correct dose, buprenorphine prevents withdrawal symptoms and reduces drug cravings without causing the person to feel high (euphoric) or sleepy. This lowers the harms associated with opioid misuse and gives people who are addicted to opioids a chance to stabilize their lives. This treatment is known as opioid agonist therapy. Buprenorphine therapy for opioid addiction works similar to methadone, another opioid agonist therapy.
When combined with medical and supportive care, buprenorphine and methadone are equally effective treatments for opioid addiction, although one may work better than the other for some people.
Side effects of Buprenorphine
Side effects can include:
changes in sex drive
nausea and vomiting
Types of Buprenorphine
Trade names include:
Frequently Asked Questions
How do buprenorphine andmethadonediffer?
Differences between buprenorphine and methadone include the following:
Buprenorphine/naloxone is a pill that is absorbed under the tongue, whereas methadone is taken as drink.
Buprenorphine has a lower risk of overdose than methadone.
Any physician can prescribe buprenorphine, but only those who have completed special training can prescribe methadone.
Methadone is most commonly available through specialized treatment clinics; buprenorphine treatment may be easier to access than methadone.
It can take weeks to reach a fully effective dose with methadone but only a few days with buprenorphine.
Side-effects can be less pronounced with buprenorphine.
Can buprenorphine interact with other drugs?
Mixing methadone or buprenorphine with other drugs that depress the central nervous system can be very dangerous. Avoid other opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Xanax, Restoril, Valium, clonazepam). Taking these is especially risky when you first start opioid agonist therapy. Using other drugs while taking opioid agonist treatment can also cause your dose of buprenorphine to wear off more quickly, meaning you could experience withdrawal.
Can you overdose on buprenorphine?
All opioids have a risk of overdose, though the risk is higher with methadone than with buprenorphine. The risk is especially high when you start treatment, and when you stop taking opioids (buprenorphine or other opioids) for a while and then start again. Mixing opioids with other drugs also increases the risk of overdose. If you or someone you know uses opioids, it is a good idea to have a free naloxone kit. Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive.