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Buprenorphine (‘bu-pre-‘nor-feen) (Suboxone®, Subutex®, Zubsolv®, Bunavail™, Probuphine®) is an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine can be dispensed for take-home use, by prescription, in an amount equal to one month’s worth of medication. This, in addition to the pharmacological and safety profile of buprenorphine, makes it an attractive treatment for patients addicted to opioids.
Buprenorphine has unique pharmacological properties that help:
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that, like opioids, it activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but only partially, and to a much lesser degree than a full agonist. It can produce effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression, but these effects are far weaker than those of full agonists such as heroin and methadone. This makes it much safer, and much less likely to be abused.
And, Buprenorphine also acts as an antagonist, meaning it also blocks the effects of the full opiate agonists. So, it blocks the effects of others while allowing for some opioid effect of its own to suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Also, because buprenorphine is very long-acting, many patients may not have to take it every day, and even those that do are assured to not have the inter-dose withdrawal often seen with other shorter-acting agents.
Buprenorphine’s side effects are similar to those of other opioids and can include:
The ideal candidates for opioid dependency treatment with buprenorphine: