What is buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is designed to help people suffering with opioid addiction. It’s a prescription medicine and is generally issued by a doctor or pharmacist. It’s an attractive option for those hooked on stronger prescription painkillers due to its low-risk profile.


Some benefits Buprenorphine gives to users are:

  • Less of the euphoric high and decreased chance of dependence
  • Low risk profile for abuse
  • Has similar opioid properties and benefits
  • Facilitates milder withdrawal

When given in specific doses, Buprenorphine medication can also:

  • Help make cravings less frequent and easier to handle
  • Lessens withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduce misuse of opioids whilst blocking their effects
  • Prevent relapse and help patients successfully complete treatment


How it works: What makes Buprenorphine so effective?

Years ago, before the FDA approved the substance for opioid addiction treatment, Buprenorphine was initially used to as a painkiller.

Being a semi-synthetic opioid, the substance comes from an alkaloid of the poppy somniferum plant. Due to it being an opioid partial agonist, it typically produces similar benefits to opioids such as pleasurable sensations and slowing down the respiratory system without being as potent as heroin or methadone.

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This means that low amounts of the substance have enough power to help those addicted to opioid drugs stop abusing them without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It does this by creating a ‘ceiling effect’ meaning its impact increases gradually as more of the drug is taken until it reaches a standstill where it stops increasing the more you take. This is what makes Buprenorphine a lower addiction and abuse risk substance.

By having a higher affinity than its counterparts, it has a stronger attraction when binding to the opioid receptors so will overpower other higher-risk substances and block them effectively.

Overall, when there’s enough it knocks the other opioids off the receptors whilst being unable to satisfy the receptors enough to produce the euphoric highs that make other drugs so addictive.

Drugs containing buprenorphine

The four drugs currently on the market containing the substance along with opiate antagonist naloxone are:

  • Suboxone
  • Subutex
  • Zubslov
  • Bunavail

Subutex and Suboxone

Approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2002, both tablets are used to help ease opiate addiction. Over the years, these substances have been discontinued, replaced and improved to bring new drugs to the market.

For example, in early 2016 Probuphine was released as an buprenorphine under-the skin implant. This option gives individuals the chance to benefit from a continual, stable dose of buprenorphine over a 6 month period.


What Suboxone and Subutex have in common?

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Both these medications have the same active substance known as buprenorphine, an ‘opioid partial agonist’. In more understandable terms, the drug basically communicates with the same receptors that interact with opiates like heroin.

This change in brain chemistry occurs without the same impact as stronger more addictive opiates that create intense highs.

As a result, suboxone and Subutex can be used by people in their everyday life to combat chronic pain without ever developing cravings. This should mean coming on and off the medication shouldn’t cause issues with addiction as buprenorphine fools the brains receptors into believing it’s an opiate.

What is Subutex?

Subutex is another name for buprenorphine and comes in the form of sublingual tablets. They are taken by placing them underneath the tongue as they dissolve. Usually they don’t come accompanied by feel-good highs unlike stronger opiates neither do they cause sleepiness or depress the nervous system.

Usually, Subutex is given as and when the doctor prescribes and must be used under their direction to ensure successful treament.

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Is it possible to abuse Subutex? People who have misused the substance by crushing and snorting or via IV have experienced more potent effects. However, this method is as dangerous as snorting or injecting and in large amounts may cause confusion, faintness, shortness of breath and sudden death.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone combines buprenorphine with naloxone and is taken by opioid misusers to combat dependence. The naloxone prevents the user from experiencing any highs if they try to injecting the substance., blocking any pleasurable feelings.

Suboxone film is now available as a prescription medicine containing the active ingredients, which reduces the potential for abuse even more.

At what stage is Suboxone or Subutex used?

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These medications can be used as part of a detox therapy as they usually promote a successful rehabilitation. However, they are only one part of the equation and in order to detox from opiates completely individuals need a tailored treatment program. These are best from dedicated rehab centres who provide personal support and target the issue holistically from a psychological, physiological and emotional perspective.

Did you know? In the 60’s before Buprenorphine, methadone was used for the official narcotic replacement during detox therapy. In 2000 Buprenorphine was introduced as a Schedule III substance unlike methadone which was classified as a Schedule II, meaning it had a higher abuse potential. Nowadays, its generally accepted that Buprenorphine is a much safer and easily accessible treatment then methadone.


How Buprenorphine can help with recover…

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When used as part of a treatment plan with CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and counselling, Buprenorphine can help with the following:

  • Prevent a relapse from occurring
  • Help someone stay psychically content whilst going through the initial detox stage
  • Combat heroin or street opioid cravings
  • Aids in safe and successful dependence reduction when coming off street drugs

Buprenorphine – a game changer for heroin addiction

When people withdraw from heroin addiction, Buprenorphine can be essential in making the withdrawal symptoms much more bearable. This substance therefore becomes a longer-term solution to coming off drugs completely.

Even though methadone has generally been seen as more effective in helping heroin abusers come clean, people often choose buprenorphine because:

  • Methadone can cause issues
  • Buprenorphine tends to promote a clearer state of mind
  • It’s usually easier to detox from heroin
  • It’s safer in the case of overdoses compared to methadone which can carry more potential dangers.
  • It helps people no longer rely on street drugs and dealers
  • Promotes a stronger sense of well-being and personal achievement whilst having a higher likelihood of getting off drugs completely.


When do doctors usually prescribe buprenorphine?

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Doctors may get a community drug team involved to assess whether an individual requires treatment with buprenorphine. They may work alongside the team in a ‘shared care’ scheme or have received special training to evaluate and recommend the substance for use without having to refer.

A typical assessment will involve:

  • Details being recorded to do with someone’s overall health and social welfare
  • Recording information to do with current and past drug habits whilst assessing whether buprenorphine is best suited them
  • A physical exam including urine tests or mouth swab to double check the drug usage
  • In cases where heroin has been injected, doctors usually run blood test checking for HIV, Hepatitis, tetanus and liver health.
  • Immunizations will be given to the individual and partners, children if necessary.
  • Explanations that whilst on a course, no other street drugs or alcohol should be taken.

The doctor will also assess whether you have any medical conditions before starting on the course as special caution may be required if taking buprenorphine. They will detect whether there is any:

  • Liver or kidney issues
  • Prostate problems or trouble urinating
  • Respiration troubles
  • Low blood pressure
  • Epilepsy
  • Constipation or inflammation in the bowel
  • Condition of muscular weakness
  • Any allergies to ingredients contained in medicines
  • Whether individuals are on a course of medication or taking any other street drugs


Starting the course of buprenorphine

After discussing and pinpointing any of the above issues, the first dose will be issued. Getting the timing of the first dose right is vital, especially when taking heroin.

If this is the case, the first dose of buprenorphine should be taken 8 hours or more after consuming the heroin.

If methadone is being taken, then the course should start between 24-36 hours after the last dose.

The timing is so important because buprenorphine works best when there are minimal traces of heroin or methadone in someone’s system. This is why doctors advise individuals to start taking the substance when they feel withdrawal symptoms coming on. If buprenorphine is taken too soon, it may actually do more harm than good and worsen the symptoms.


Are you addicted to street opioids or heroin?

If you are finding it hard to safely withdraw from heroin and other street drugs, taking  buprenorphine and finding a quality rehabilitation centre could make the world of difference to your health and wellbeing.

At the right centre you will gain access to qualified and dedicated teams who are on-call alongside a solid support network helping individuals quit completely.

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Having the option of either residential and outpatient services tailored to fit your specific needs, it can be much easier to undergo a successful detox.

When opting for the residential rehab option, you can take advantage of the following services:

  • Individualized Detox Treatments
  • Chef-Prepared Gourmet Meals
  • Medically-Assisted Detox
  • A Comprehensive Aftercare Plan
  • Convenient Transport Services

You’ll get the help and support you need at one of our BLVD centers located in: Hollywood, Portland, Orange County, San Diego, West Los Angeles, Give our team a call to see how we can help on 8885376671.


Buprenorphine infographic all you need to know