What is Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine – sold under brand names including Subutex, Zubsolv, Bunavail, Sublocade, Probuphine, Temgesic, Buprenex, Norspan, Butrans, Cizdol, and Suboxone, among others – is an opioid use to treat opioid addiction and chronic pain. It can be administered orally, under the tongue, as a skin patch, rectally, intranasally (via the nose), as an implant or by intravenous injection. In the UK it is a class-C controlled substance, legally available by prescription only.
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What is Buprenorphine Used to Treat?
Buprenorphine is most commonly used in the treatment of opioid addiction, with treatment beginning after withdrawal symptoms have begun to manifest. It is also used as a treatment for chronic pain, usually administered via a dermal patch; historically it has also been used to treat acute pain (typically by intravenous injection) though this is now comparatively rare.
Buprenorphine has also been seen in some studies to be effective as a treatment for: depression (in such cases it is typically used in conjunction with samidorphan); obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); and neonatal abstinence syndrome (opioid withdrawal in newborn babies whose mothers abuse opioids during pregnancy). Research is ongoing into buprenorphine’s efficacy as a treatment for cocaine dependence.
Why use Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction
Although buprenorphine is itself an opioid, it is one of the most popular pharmaceutical treatments for opioid addiction, as withdrawal from buprenorphine is typically significantly less severe than that from other opioids: substituting buprenorphine for opioids such as heroin can therefore make it easier for an addict to taper off (gradually decrease dosages and frequency of use) their drug consumption, and eventually to stop using altogether.
How Do Medications for Addiction Treatment Work?
Withdrawal from opioids tends to be a very unpleasant experience, and many addicts find it effectively impossible to resist the temptation to continue to take opioids once withdrawal sets in, simply to stave off the distressing symptoms which opioid withdrawal syndrome causes. Although, as noted, buprenorphine is itself an opioid, the withdrawal symptoms associated with it are notably less severe than those resulting from ceasing to use heroin and other opioids – and reducing the severity of the symptoms makes it significantly easier to endure withdrawal syndrome during detoxification. Put simply, it is easier to come off buprenorphine than it is heroin or several other opioids which are frequently abused.
Is Buprenorphine Effective at Treating Opioid Addiction?
Yes: buprenorphine has been an effective treatment in many thousands of cases in the UK and around the world. However, it is primarily effective in addressing physical dependence; it does not address the underlying causes of addiction.
Principles of Effective Buprenorphine Addiction Treatment
In order to get the maximum possible benefit from the prescription of buprenorphine, it should form part of a wider addiction treatment plan with psychotherapy (in any of various models and settings) at its core; therapy addresses the root causes of addiction, and provides the addict with psychological defence mechanisms against relapse, while buprenorphine is primarily useful as a means of getting the addict off more problematic opioids such as heroin ahead of a full detoxification – which may also form part of a holistic addiction treatment plan, possibly provided in residential rehabilitation (rehab).
Buprenorphine should only be taken strictly in accordance with the instructions of the prescribing physician, especially regarding dosage and duration and frequency of use. It should never be consumed via any methods other than as instructed.
What are the Side Effects of Buprenorphine?
As an opioid, although used in the treatment of opioid addiction buprenorphine is itself an addictive substance and dependence can develop quite quickly. Other side effects include respiratory depression (insufficient breathing), which typically occurs in individuals who are also taking benzodiazepines or alcohol, or who have a coexisting lung condition; nausea and vomiting; fatigue; dizziness; perspiration; itchiness; decreased libido; dry mouth; memory loss; and urinary retention.
Ready to get Help for Your Addiction?
If you are suffering from an opioid addiction, buprenorphine can play a significant role in your recovery – but that recovery cannot commence until you are ready to acknowledge your condition and ask for help.
Get help today
Once you are in a position to ask for help, there are a great variety of options open to you, with facilities and organisations treating addicts across the UK. If you’re ready to fight addiction, don’t waste any more time: contact your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to discuss treatment options available to you.
Take control of your life – get started on the road to recovery
If you are suffering from an addiction you may feel as though you have lost control of your life – but you can take back that control with help from medical professionals and an array of support groups. Pick up the phone and call your GP and/or an addiction specialist today, and take the first steps on the path back to a healthy, happy life.
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