What is Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid most commonly used in the treatment of withdrawing opioid addicts. It has several attributes that make it beneficial to those who are detoxing. Buprenorphine has strong binding potential, meaning the drug tightly binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. If there are other opioids in the body, such as heroin, morphine, or oxycodone, the buprenorphine will block them from binding to the receptors.
Use of Buprenorphine
The use of other opiates in conjunction with buprenorphine produces a lower level of euphoria and may discourage use. Buprenorphine is only a partially activating opioid, which means that it does not bind to all the receptors in the brain, but rather a select few. The partial activation characteristic contributes to a lower addiction percentage than most other opioids, although addictive qualities are still present.
Buprenorphine for Addiction Therapy
The most common prescription medications containing buprenorphine are Subutex and Suboxone. These tablets contain high doses of buprenorphine and have been shown to help those withdrawing from opioids. Doctors are required to have a specific license to prescribe buprenorphine and generally have a treatment plan ranging from one month to a year. Several factors, including dosage and frequency of use, contribute to the length of treatment.
Treatment usually begins at a high dose and slowly titrates to lower doses until the drug is no longer needed. Buprenorphine may cause withdrawal symptoms, but the effects are typically less severe than withdrawal from heroin, morphine, or oxycodone.
Suboxone vs Subutex
Although Suboxone and Subutex are very similar substances, they have one major difference. Subutex contains buprenorphine, while Suboxone contains buprenorphone and Naloxone, an opiate antagonist.
After ingesting naloxone, the user may no longer be able to achieve the euphoria from drugs. The inclusion of naloxone prevents the users from attempting to snort or inject the tablet, as the naloxone will then cancel out the effects of the buprenorphine. Other than Naloxone, Suboxone and Subutex are virtually the same substance.
Suboxone has been shown to have slightly higher rates of success, although both pills are relatively successful. The new Suboxone Film is similar to a Listerine Strip. Instead of a pill that is put under the tongue, it is a small film put on the tongue and dissolved.
The idea behind Suboxone Film is that it is more difficult to abuse, as it cannot be crushed nor melted and injected. Suboxone and Subutex have taken the lead over methadone as the drug of choice for medical professionals to prescribe to opioid addicts.
The following instructions should be followed while taking buprenorphine:
- Do not take other medications without first talking to your doctor.
- Make sure your doctor looks for liver-related health problems.
- Dispose of methadone safely. Contact your doctor for instructions or other information on the safe storage of unused medications.
- Tell your doctor if you are pregnant.
- Keep it away from children, so they do not accidentally swallow it.
- Do not use drugs, alcohol, stimulants, or other medications that slow down breathing. Mixing many other drugs with buprenorphine can lead to overdose or even death.
Do not share your buprenorphine with anyone, even if they have the same symptoms or similar health conditions.