What is buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, an alkaloid of the poppy plant. Intramuscular preparations of buprenorphine have been used to treat pain for several years. Sublingual buprenorphine is a new medication approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction in the privacy of a physician’s office. Buprenorphine can be prescribed by a certified physician and can be picked up from a local pharmacy. This, in addition to buprenorphine’s pharmacological and safety profile makes it an attractive treatment for patients addicted to opioids.

Buprenorphine is different from other opioids in that it is a partial opioid agonist. This property of buprenorphine may allow for;

  • Less euphoria and physical dependence
  • Lower addictive potential
  • A ceiling on opioid effects
  • Relatively mild withdrawal profile
  • Greater safety with overdose

At the appropriate dose buprenorphine treatment may:

  • Suppress symptoms of opioid withdrawal
  • Decrease cravings for opioids
  • Reduce illicit opioid use
  • Block the effects of other opioids
  • Help patients stay in treatment
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