- Benefits of Buprenorphine
- What are Common Effects of this Drug?
- Potential Dangers of Using
- Warning Signs of Addiction
- Physical and Psychological Dependence
- Available Treatment Options
- Getting Necessary Medical Attention
- The Detox and the Withdrawal Process
- Symptoms to Look out For
- Is Therapy Right for You?
- Taking a Holistic Approach
- The Importance of Follow-up Care
Buprenorphine addiction treatment can be helpful for people who have become dependent on the prescription drug buprenorphine. While buprenorphine is much less addictive than other opiates, such as morphine, heroin, and oxycodone, it still carries the potential for addiction. This drug is considered a Schedule III narcotic by the by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it is strictly controlled.
Benefits of Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine is most commonly used during the treatment of other drug addictions. It attaches to the same receptors in the brain as all opiates but has fewer side effects and does not produce as intense a high as those drugs. Buprenorphine is also used for pain management in some circumstances, although other opiates are preferred for pain relief because of their much higher potency.
Opiate DrugsBuprenorphine is most commonly used during the treatment of other drug addictions. It attaches to the same receptors in the brain as all opiates but has fewer side effects and does not produce as intense a high as those drugs.
When used as a maintenance drug for opiate addiction, buprenorphine is typically taken every other day in a doctor’s office. It is prescribed in the form of sublingual tablets that are placed under the tongue to dissolve. The drug is often produced in a combination pill that also includes naloxone. This combination greatly reduces the chance of addiction. The brand name of the buprenorphine-naloxone combination pill is Suboxone, and buprenorphine alone is sold under the brand name Subutex. The manufacturer has discontinued production of Subutex, but previously produced tablets are still available. Most people who seek buprenorphine addiction treatment are addicted to the buprenorphine-only form of the drug, not the buprenorphine-naloxone combination drug.
People who are not currently addicted to other, stronger opiates may be more likely to become addicted to buprenorphine. This is because opiate-addicted individuals find the effect of buprenorphine to be mild compared to other opiates.
What are Common Effects of this Drug?
Buprenorphine produces a mild state of euphoria similar to the feeling produced by heroin, morphine, and other opiates. However, the effects of buprenorphine are much less intense than the effects of other opiate drugs. Buprenorphine’s effects plateau when you reach a moderate dose, so taking more does not add to the effect or make the high more intense. It is also harder to overdose on buprenorphine than on other opiates. Because of the reduced effects of buprenorphine when compared to other opiates, buprenorphine addiction treatment tends to be easier than addiction treatment for heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, or other opiates.
Potential Dangers of Using
“Pregnant women who are addicted to opiates and who are treated with buprenorphine end up with babies who have fewer withdrawal symptoms than babies of addicted women treated with methadone or left untreated… “Side effects can occur in patients using buprenorphine. These are typically mild and include vomiting, nausea, and constipation. Buprenorphine can also make you drowsy, so it can be extremely dangerous to drive or operate machinery while on this medication. There is also a risk of respiratory depression, the slowing and cessation of breathing, in people taking buprenorphine. However, this risk is lower than in individuals taking morphine, heroin, oxycodone, or other opiates. If you have experienced respiratory distress while taking buprenorphine, you may need to stop taking the drug.
Pregnant women who are addicted to opiates and who are treated with buprenorphine end up with babies who have fewer withdrawal symptoms than babies of addicted women treated with methadone or left untreated, according to a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Warning Signs of Addiction
Recognizing the symptoms and signs of buprenorphine abuse and addiction can help you determine whether you or someone you know needs buprenorphine addiction treatment. The primary symptom of buprenorphine abuse is the use of this drug in a fashion other than as prescribed. This can mean taking higher doses than prescribed or taking the drug more often than you should. If the patient’s buprenorphine is typically given in the doctor’s office, obtaining extra prescriptions for home use can be a sign of abuse.
Some people who are addicted to buprenorphine resort to purchasing the drug on the black market or making appointments with multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for the drug. Spending a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the drug and how to obtain it is another sign of potential buprenorphine abuse and addiction. Addicts also tend to continue using the drug even after experiencing home, school, or work problems as a result of their drug use. Sometimes, an addict will attempt to quit multiple times on his or her own and be unsuccessful.
Physical and Psychological Dependence
While physical addiction to buprenorphine is possible, a psychological addiction may be more likely. Psychological addiction develops when the user believes the drug is necessary for normal functioning. This can occur if the person thinks that quitting buprenorphine will result in a relapse of the original opiate addiction. A fear of relapse can keep the person using buprenorphine far longer than necessary. Another potential reason for a psychological addiction to buprenorphine is a fear of chronic pain returning should buprenorphine be halted. This type of psychological addiction often occurs in people who are using buprenorphine to medically detox from oxycodone or another narcotic pain reliever.
If the original drug was prescribed to relieve pain and buprenorphine has continued to manage the pain, the individual may worry that the absence of any narcotic pain relief will result in a return of the original pain. Buprenorphine addiction treatment can help people who have a psychological addiction as well as people who are physically addicted to this substance. In some cases, the addict will have both physical and psychological addiction symptoms simultaneously. An effective treatment plan will address both the physical and mental aspects of addiction.
Available Treatment Options
Buprenorphine addiction treatment can take many different forms, depending on the degree of addiction and whether the person has successfully recovered from the opiate addiction for which buprenorphine was prescribed. Because buprenorphine is a medically managed drug, buprenorphine addiction is treated under the care of a physician who can monitor and control the amount of buprenorphine that the patient takes.
Some recovering addicts prefer to receive treatment on an outpatient basis. The primary advantage of outpatient buprenorphine addiction treatment is the ability to live at home and continue going to work or school during treatment. One disadvantage is that people in outpatient treatment may be more prone to a relapse because they are more exposed to the temptation of drug use. Some people in outpatient treatment may start using other opiates because these drugs are more easily available and calm the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Another option for patients seeking buprenorphine addiction treatment is to check into a buprenorphine rehab clinic or a hospital specializing in drug rehabilitation. Inpatient treatment involves living at the treatment facility full time. In some cases, you may live at the facility throughout the entire course of treatment, while in other cases you may live there for a set period of time and then switch to outpatient treatment. A big advantage of inpatient buprenorphine addiction treatment is that medical monitoring is available 24 hours a day while you are at the facility. This helps the patient better handle withdrawal symptoms. Also, living at a buprenorphine rehab clinic makes it easier to resist temptation because opiates are not available except in controlled doses given by a doctor at the clinic.
Getting Necessary Medical Attention
At the start of buprenorphine addiction treatment, you will undergo detoxification, the process of halting buprenorphine use. This cessation of buprenorphine may be done gradually or all at once, depending on your current dose and level of addiction. Once detoxification is in progress, you will likely enter therapy or participate in alternative treatment methods that can help you adjust to a drug-free lifestyle.
“As of 2006, about 10,000 physicians in the U.S. have received the necessary training and certification to prescribe buprenorphine.”A good buprenorphine addiction treatment program will also address any other medical concerns that could make recovery more difficult. For many buprenorphine users, this means addressing the original opiate addiction and ensuring that the patient is fully recovered from all forms of addiction, not just addiction to buprenorphine. For patients who initially used opiates to control pain, treatment must involve finding other pain control methods so that the patient need not deal with chronic pain once weaned off opiates.
As of 2006, about 10,000 physicians in the U.S. have received the necessary training and certification to prescribe buprenorphine.
The Detox and the Withdrawal Process
During detoxification, someone who used buprenorphine may experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from buprenorphine is less intense than withdrawal from other opiates because buprenorphine produces fewer and less severe withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification occurs when the person stops using the drug. Medically managed buprenorphine addiction treatment involves a doctor-controlled reduction in your dose of buprenorphine over the period of a week to a few weeks. This controlled weaning off the drug can reduce the likelihood and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms to Look out For
Because buprenorphine can cause withdrawal symptoms in people who take other opiates, these symptoms can be confused with side effects of buprenorphine. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, goose bumps, diarrhea, yawning, muscle aches, mild fever, a runny nose, insomnia, dilated pupils, sweating, cravings, and irritability. These effects are completely normal in someone who is using buprenorphine to medically manage detoxification from opiates. These symptoms may also occur in a milder form when the patient stops taking buprenorphine because the body withdraws from buprenorphine just as it did from the original opiate.
Is Therapy Right for You?
Opiate DrugsCognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches the recovering addict how to respond to temptation and avoid relapses, is also useful. Another option is motivational therapy, in which the counselor offers rewards for successful recovery behaviors, such as staying drug-free for a specific amount of time.
During buprenorphine addiction treatment, most people participate in therapy to help them address any underlying issues involved in the addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches the recovering addict how to respond to temptation and avoid relapses, is also useful. Another option is motivational therapy, in which the counselor offers rewards for successful recovery behaviors, such as staying drug-free for a specific amount of time. For some recovering opiate addicts, family therapy can help restore healthy family functioning and aid in recovery. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that medically managed opiate treatment should be combined with counseling services to achieve the best results. If the patient has been taking buprenorphine to treat another opiate addiction, he or she can continue the same counseling program that was being used during that course of treatment.
Taking a Holistic Approach
In some cases, holistic treatment can be used to help address the whole individual instead of just treating the symptoms of buprenorphine addiction. Holistic treatment may involve a variety of techniques that aim to take the place of drug use and heal the whole person. This type of program may include things like yoga, music therapy, or traditional Chinese medicine. These holistic treatment options can be used alone or in conjunction with therapy.
The Importance of Follow-up Care
Once you have completed a course of treatment, follow-up care can help you maintain your new drug-free lifestyle. Follow-up care typically takes the form of additional counseling or holistic activities that help you resist the temptation to start using drugs again.
If you do have a relapse and start using buprenorphine again, you can return to treatment and get back on track. Many people relapse during treatment for opiate addiction, and a relapse is not indicative of complete treatment failure or an inability to break free of drug use. In some cases, you will need to undergo medically managed detoxification again after a relapse. Alternately, you may be able to simply continue with the therapy sessions or holistic methods you have been using to recover from your addiction.