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Search Health Information    Buprenorphine for Drug Dependence

Buprenorphine for Drug Dependence

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
buprenorphine Subutex
buprenorphine and naloxone Suboxone

You take buprenorphine by placing pills under your tongue.

How It Works

Buprenorphine is an opioid medicine similar to morphine, codeine, and heroin. It targets the same places in the brain that opioids do. It relieves drug cravings without giving you the same high as other opioid drugs.

Buprenorphine can cause side effects similar to other opioids and also can cause physical dependence.

Why It Is Used

Buprenorphine can help treat addiction to opioid drugs, including heroin and narcotic painkillers. It prevents or reduces withdrawal symptoms caused by quitting these drugs.

How Well It Works

Research has shown that buprenorphine is effective for treating opioid addiction. 1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of an overdose, including:
    • Cold, clammy skin.
    • Confusion.
    • Severe nervousness or restlessness.
    • Severe dizziness, drowsiness, or weakness.
    • Slow breathing.
    • Seizures.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • A fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Redness or flushing of the face.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Do not take mood-altering drugs, narcotic painkillers, sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers while taking buprenorphine.

In some cases, buprenorphine may be used as an alternative to methadone, which also is given to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine may have less severe side effects than methadone. Talk to your doctor about what might work best for you.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Buprenorphine: An alternative to methadone (2003). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 45(W1150A): 13–15.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Current as of March 12, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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