Opiate abuse and addiction has remained an ongoing threat to communities and families for decades on end. Buprenorphine, one of a handful of opiate addiction treatment medications, developed out of continuous research efforts to find treatments that can address the problems addicts face
Up until the development of buprenorphine, methadone existed as the only opiate addiction treatment medication. Buprenorphine was developed in an effort to improve upon methadone as well as make-up for a few of methadone’s shortcomings.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, buprenorphine was first develop in 2002 under two brand name drugs – Subutex and Suboxone. The two variations of the drug work to address and treat different aspects of opiate addiction.
While buprenorphine is effective as a treatment drug, opiate addiction has as much to do with the mind as it does the body. In order to address the psychological aftereffects of addiction, buprenorphine treatment programs also provide ongoing behavior-based treatments.
If you need help finding a buprenorphine treatment program call our toll-free helpline at 800-584-3274.
Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate drug that comes in tablet form. Buprenorphine’s brand name product, Subutex, contains only buprenorphine.
Suboxone, the second brand name type, contains buprenorphine and naloxone, which acts as a preventative agent for people at high risk of relapse. Suboxone comes in the form of a filmstrip that dissolves under the tongue.
Other types of buprenorphine-based brand drugs exist in different forms:
- Zubsolv – buprenorphine and naloxone in tablet form that goes under the tongue
- Bunavail – buprenorphine and naloxone in buccal film form (absorbed through the cheeks)
- Probuphine – a long-term implant device that lasts for six months
Drug users and drug dealers create street names for illicit drugs as a means for hiding their activity when talking about a particular drug. Commonly used street names for buprenorphine-based drugs include:
How Does Buprenorphine Work?
As an opiate addiction treatment medication, buprenorphine works to relieve the types of withdrawal and drug cravings effects commonly experienced once a person stops abusing opiates. Withdrawal and drug cravings can persist for months or even years into recovery, especially for people coming off long-time addiction problems.
Chronic and long-term opiate abuse leaves behind pronounced chemical imbalances in the brain, which account for why a person continues to experience withdrawal and drug cravings once drug use stops. In effect, buprenorphine’s opiate-based ingredient is specifically formulated to restore a normal chemical balance in the brain and relieve the uncomfortable aftereffects of addiction.
According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services, buprenorphine can be used during the detoxification stage and also as a long-term maintenance treatment.
Like methadone, buprenorphine’s effects enable recovering addicts to maintain ongoing abstinence from compulsive drug use. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine’s opiate ingredient has a built-in ceiling effect that limits the drug’s potency once a certain dosage level is reached, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.
As methadone and buprenorphine both contain opiate materials, a certain degree of risk for abuse does exist. Buprenorphine’s ceiling effect lowers this risk for abuse compared to methadone.
Likewise buprenorphine’s limited potency effects comes with a lower risk for overdose (compared to methadone) in cases where drug abuse does become an issue.
Call our helpline at 800-584-3274 to ask about buprenorphine treatment options.
Buprenorphine Treatment Process
Buprenorphine’s reduced risk for abuse allows for this treatment method to be administered on an out-of-office basis by qualified physicians as opposed to the clinic environment that characterizes methadone treatment. Buprenorphine also produces long-acting effects that can last for up to three days, compared to methadone’s daily dose requirement.
The buprenorphine treatment process encompasses three phases:
- The induction phase
- The stabilization phase
- The maintenance phase
The induction phase begins during the early stages of opiate withdrawal once a person has abstained from opiate abuse for 24 hours. It’s especially important that early withdrawal begins before receiving buprenorphine or else a person will likely experience acute withdrawal effects.
The stabilization phase starts once an optimal buprenorphine dosage has been reached. During this phase, patients experience little to no withdrawal or drug cravings effects. Dosage adjustments may be made throughout this phase depending on how a person responds to the drug.
During the maintenance phase, patients remain on a steady dose of buprenorphine until they’re ready to discontinue treatment. Treatment duration can vary depending on a person treatment needs.
Once patients feel they’re ready to discontinue treatment, dosage amounts are slowly reduced down to zero. This tapering process takes anywhere from three to six months and should not be rushed or else the risk of relapse runs high.
Behavioral Treatment Component
While buprenorphine effects can provide much needed relief in recovery, the roots of opiate addiction take hold within a person’s thinking and behavior patterns. For these reasons, treatment programs combine buprenorphine medication therapy with ongoing behavioral treatment interventions.
Behavioral treatments work to undo the harmful effects of compulsive drug use on a person’s thinking while equipping him or her with healthy coping skills for maintaining continued abstinence and building a drug-free lifestyle.
Behavioral treatments commonly used include:
- Individual psychotherapy
- Support group work
- Relapse prevention training
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
Buprenorphine Abuse Potential
While buprenorphine’s naloxone-containing brands have a built-in safeguard against relapse and abuse, those that come in tablet form must be ingested as-is in order for naloxone to work. According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, if a person converts the tablet into a powder or liquid for snorting or injecting, naloxone no longer works.
Under these conditions, buprenorphine abuse can proceed along the same lines as any other form of opiate abuse and produce the same harmful effects. Buprenorphine abuse may also involve combining buprenorphine with other opiate type drugs.
If you or someone you know struggles with an opiate abuse problem and need help finding treatment that meets your needs, please feel free to call our helpline at 800-584-3274 to speak with one of our addiction counselors.