What Is Buprenorphine & How Can it Help Me?

Two women hugging after switching to Buprenorphine.
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By Guy M. Lerner, MD, medical director, NKY Med, an opioid treatment program in Covington, Kentucky; and physician at Recovery Works Elizabethtown, one of Pinnacle’s five residential treatment centers in Kentucky

Buprenorphine is used as a medication to treat patients with an addiction to opioids. Buprenorphine and opioids are similar in that they affect the same receptors in the brain, but buprenorphine does not offer the same euphoria or high level of risks. It also alleviates pain and withdrawal symptoms, making it effective for patients who are psychologically stable and ready to recover from opioid abuse disorder.

What Is Buprenorphine & How Is It Used?

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, which essentially means that although it is an opioid, its effects are not the same as many others. It is most often used as a prescribed treatment to aid in opioid abuse recovery by alleviating withdrawal symptoms.

Buprenorphine medication is typically administered in a clinic under a physician’s supervision. It can also be done as part of an opioid abuse recovery plan at a treatment center. Occasionally, with permission from your doctor, you may begin buprenorphine use at home. Like all medications used to treat opioid use disorder, buprenorphine is most effective when combined with counseling services.

Doctor prescribing Buprenorphine

Benefits of Buprenorphine in Opioid Abuse Treatment

When buprenorphine medication is used to treat patients who are recovering from opioid addiction, it provides numerous benefits compared with other medications:

  • Less euphoria
  • Less physical dependence and lower risk of misuse
  • Mild withdrawal symptoms
  • Ceiling on opioid effects, so that higher doses do not have as great an impact on breathing as other opioid medications, for example

Buprenorphine vs. Methadone

Methadone has shown a somewhat higher rate of retention among patients but is best used under close supervision, such as in a care center for opioid abuse treatment. It is more often used for patients with multiple addictions or who are more psychiatrically compromised.

Buprenorphine, on the other hand, can be given to patients who are more stable and can be monitored monthly or at longer intervals as needed. It is also less likely to lead to an overdose death, due to its ability to put a ceiling on opioid effects. It is also possible to transition from other opioid medications to buprenorphine.

Man getting supported in group therapy.

Potential Side Effects of Buprenorphine

The side effects of buprenorphine include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, and other moderate risks. However, if you experience any of the symptoms listed below, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Signs of adrenal failure
  • Mental or mood changes
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Inability to wake up, severe drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Where to Find Help for Opioid Addiction

When you are ready to put a stop to your opioid use, speak with your doctor or a medical professional at Pinnacle Treatment Centers. Buprenorphine medication may be administered if it is determined the best course of action for you. Your medical team will help you create a recovery plan based on your individual needs.

Reach out to Pinnacle Treatment Centers today for more information about buprenorphine medication and other treatment plans for opioid addiction recovery.