Buprenorphine Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Buprenorphine Treatment for Opiate Addiction


Buprenorphine treatment is used to help opiate addicts and heroin addict to overcome their drug addiction.  There are basically two ways in which this might happen.  But first of all, what is Buprenorphine anyway?

It is actually a partial, synthetic opiate in the form of a sublingual pill.  That means that this is a medication that literally melts in the mouth so that the medicine is absorbed directly through the membranes in the mouth without having to be digested.  This can be extremely useful for people who are too sick to ingest a pill without throwing it up.

Now the medication comes in two forms.  One is called Suboxone and the other is called Subutex.  Both of these two medications contain buprenorphine.  But the Suboxone adds a second drug in it called Nalaxone that is an opiate blocker.  This drug is mixed in with the synthetic opiate in order to lower the abuse potential of Suboxone.  The idea is that people can not melt the pill down and shoot it in order to get high, because it contains an opiate blocker.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Andres Rueda

So how is this medication used for treatment?  Well essentially what happens is that it can be used to help detox an opiate addict.  When they are in withdrawal from heroin or prescription pain pills, beprenorphine can be given in order to mitigate the withdrawal symptoms.  The synthetic opiate fills the opiate receptors up in the brain without really getting the person “high.”  So one type of treatment with this drug is simply to get an opiate addict through their first week of recovery.  Most will stop taking the buprenorphine at this point and move on with a drug free life.

The other form of buprenorphine treatment is when people plan to take the pill over the long term.  It is actually marketed to be sold as a maintenance type drug for longer term use by opiate addicts.  The idea is that a recovering opiate addict can take this medication, usually twice a day, in order to overcome cravings for their drug of choice and not end up relapsing on other opiates. This form of treatment can be rather expensive, as the medication is not exactly cheap, so you will need to have good insurance or a good source of funding if you plan to keep taking this medicine.  Those who do stay on the pill will have a better chance of avoiding street drugs and possible relapse.