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Buprenorphine as a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT)

In 2020, over 7 million people in the United States struggled with an opioid use disorder (OUD).1 While an OUD can be devastating, there are  effective treatments that can help individuals achieve and maintain recovery. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized 3 types of medications to treat opioid use disorders; one of which is buprenorphine.2 Buprenorphine can help  mitigate withdrawal symptoms during the detox phase, and may be used to help reduce cravings after a patient has stabilized.

Understanding what buprenorphine is, how it can be a pivotal medication in OUD treatment, and where to find programs that offer buprenorphine treatment can help you achieve recovery.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine has proven successful in reducing opioid cravings and curbing withdrawal symptoms without the euphoric effect that other opioids produce.1 Buprenorphine treatment curbs illicit opioid use and is known to have a higher treatment retention rate..3  Research has also shown that the likelihood of contracting HIV and the risk of overdose death may also be reduced with buprenorphine.

Only a professional with a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) waiver can prescribe a person buprenorphine for opioid addiction treatment.3 Brand names of prescription buprenorphine or combination medications with buprenorphine include the following:

  • Generic buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets.
  • Subutex.
  • Suboxone.
  • Zubsolv.
  • Bunavail.
  • Probuphine (buprenorphine implants).
  • Sublocade (extended-release injections).

How Does Buprenorphine Work?

Buprenorphine is considered a partial opioid agonist to the mu receptor in the brain.1 Partial opioid agonists bind themselves to the same receptors in the brain as opioids do but elicit a weaker effect compared to full opioid agonists, resulting in less euphoric feelings.

By binding to the mu receptors, buprenorphine stops other opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl, from binding to opioid receptors, and thereby preventing individuals from feeling the desired “euphoric high” from opioid misuse.3 Buprenorphine also prevents respiratory depression, opioid cravings, opioid withdrawal symptoms, and other side effects of illicit opioids.3 Medical staff can administer the medication through a tablet, injection, implant, or film.3

Buprenorphine Side Effects

Like any medication, buprenorphine may have some side effects. Common side effects of buprenorphine can include:2

  • Headache.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Fatigue or drowsiness.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Insomnia.

Buprenorphine Interactions

It’s essential to be aware of potential interactions with other substances when taking buprenorphine. While taking buprenorphine, it is recommended that one avoid taking illicit drugs, alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers, or any other medication that may slow breathing without consulting your doctor.2

Buprenorphine for Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Medical providers tailor buprenorphine treatment to the needs of the person.2 Buprenorphine is typically administered during the detox phase, usually 12 to 24 hours after a person has stopped taking opioid doses.2

When taken during the treatment, the dosage of buprenorphine may be tailored depending on the person’s cravings and side effects.2 The medical professional can determine if the person needs buprenorphine daily or  alternate-day dosing.2

How to Find MAT for Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is available if you or a loved one is struggling with opioid use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a treatment locator tool on its website to help you find nearby addiction treatment facilities. You may also reach out to your primary care doctor to discuss which option may be best for you.

Addiction helplines can be beneficial in assisting you or your loved one with finding addiction treatment options. American Addiction Centers’ helpline is a great resource that can help answer your questions about buprenorphine treatment and find a treatment that fits your needs. Call today to learn more about recovery and buprenorphine treatment.

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). How do medications to treat opioid use disorder work?
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2022, March 4). MAT medications, counseling and related conditions.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2021). Medications for opioid use disorder TIP 63.
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