Buprenorphine Abuse: Everything You Need to Know


Buprenorphine is a prescription opioid that’s used to help combat opioid use disorders as well as chronic pain.

If you’ve been prescribed Buprenorphine by your doctor, you might be worried about becoming addicted to it or what the effects of buprenorphine are.

Thankfully, buprenorphine is not considered an addictive drug. However, misusing it can lead to opioid addiction and many other serious health conditions.

This is why it’s important to understand the drug you’re taking before you start taking it.

Today, we’ll examine:

  • What buprenorphine is and whether it’s addictive
  • Common signs of buprenorphine abuse and addiction
  • A few top tips on how to safely use the drug.

Let’s get started.

Is Buprenorphine Addictive? Understanding Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a medication that’s used to treat either opioid use disorder or chronic pain.

It comes in a few different forms which are absorbed into the body, including sublingual tablets/film, skin patches, and an injection. Each method ensures the drug is safely dispensed into the body in a controlled amount.

Buprenorphine works as a partial opioid agonist. This means it only partially activates opioid receptors in your brain, unlike a full opioid agonist which creates euphoric effects when used.

Buprenorphine is therefore a great drug for helping people with an opioid addiction manage withdrawal symptoms. As pain relief, it works similarly by disrupting pain signals sent from nerves to the brain.

In the US, buprenorphine is classed as a Scheduled III controlled substance. This means that while there is still some risk of addiction, it is quite low.

Buprenorphine is a long-acting drug, which means it works its way into your body slowly and over a long period of time.

This is what makes it an effective medication-assisted treatment for opioid addictions as it replaces fast-acting opioids like heroin.

While buprenorphine is not usually thought of as addictive, it’s still susceptible to substance abuse.

When used as directed by a medical professional, the chances of becoming addicted are extremely low.

The only side effect you have to worry about is gaining a physical dependency, but this isn’t something you should be overly concerned about.

Identifying Buprenorphine Abuse: Signs and Symptoms

While buprenorphine isn’t seen as addictive, it might still cause euphoric effects and induce an addiction.

However, taking buprenorphine as directed by a medical professional for something like chronic pain likely won’t get you addicted.

Those who go on to seek it out for recreational purposes are more at risk of addiction. Some heroin addicts use buprenorphine to prolong their addiction, as it helps them stave off the opioid drug withdrawal symptoms so they can keep using heroin for longer.

When it comes to looking for signs, there’s a lot that will be obvious while some won’t be as distinct. Buprenorphine addiction tends to appear through both physical and psychological symptoms.

There are certain behavioral signs you can look out for in people with opioid abuse. For example, this could include losing interest in activities or hobbies that they usually enjoy in the past.

Isolating oneself from friends and family is another sign, as well as using tactics like lying and manipulation to hide drug use.

Other psychological symptoms of opioid abuse are things like depression, anxiety, constant mood swings, and other mental health issues.

In terms of physical symptoms, a lot of these are typical symptoms of opioid abuse in general:

  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble thinking
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping.

There’s also the issue of buprenorphine withdrawal. These symptoms occur if you have developed a physical dependency on the drug and stop taking it.

This isn’t quite the same as addiction, but you should always seek medical attention if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Shaking or shivering
  • Muscle pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Cravings.

How To Prevent Buprenorphine Abuse

Do not use without medical supervision

Remember to only use buprenorphine under the supervision of a medical professional.

This ensures you’re given the correct dosage and follow any instructions specific to your medication, reducing the risk of harm.

Strictly adhere to prescribed dosage and instruction

If you follow your doctor’s instructions, you’re much less likely to develop an addiction to buprenorphine.

Make sure you keep track of when you’re taking it and are clear on the procedures for missing a dose or taking one late.

Keep the medication secure and out of reach

Make sure you store your medication professionally. Keep it in a secure spot that’s out of reach of children and away from sunlight.

Also, remember to dispose of items such as buprenorphine patches correctly. These should be sealed in a disposable bag so that they don’t get into the wrong hands.

Do not share medication with others

This one might sound obvious, but it’s important to remember: prescription drugs that have been prescribed to you are yours alone.

Don’t go sharing them with friends and family, even if you have some leftover. There are safe ways to dispose of the drug or give it back to your medical professional if you no longer need to use it.

Attend regular medical appointments

Always make sure you’re checking in with your doctor, especially while using buprenorphine. The drug has a few serious side effects, so keeping your doctor up to date helps keep you safe.

It’s also a good habit to be in contact with your healthcare provider about the drug. This makes it easier for you if you decide you want to stop taking the drug.

Inform your healthcare provider of any substance abuse history

Make sure your doctor is well aware of any history you have with substance abuse.

This is especially important if you’re taking buprenorphine as a medically-assisted treatment for OUD. Ensure that your doctor understands your wishes and can make good decisions on your behalf.

Do not use buprenorphine for recreational purposes

Finally, never use buprenorphine as a recreational drug. This might sound obvious, but you should only ever use it as directed by a medical professional.

Treat it as you would any other medication. This helps it become less of a habit and reduces the chance of addiction.

Treatment for Buprenorphine Abuse

Getting access to treatment for buprenorphine abuse is a similar process to other treatments for opioid abuse.

It typically involves going to rehab or other facilities designed for drug addicts. Patients are looked after under medical supervision to help them get their life back on track.

The best treatment for buprenorphine addiction involves a medically supervised detox of the drug. This involves removing it from your body entirely and keeping an eye on you to make sure you don’t relapse or suffer any side effects.

In the case of buprenorphine, you may also be given medication to minimize opioid withdrawal effects.

This works in the same way that buprenorphine works for opioid use disorders in that it helps minimize the cravings for the drugs while getting rid of unwanted withdrawal symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Buprenorphine is a drug used to help manage chronic pain and those with opioid use disorder.

While it’s not usually thought of as a primary drug of abuse, there is still a risk of addiction. This is especially evident when used recreationally or outside of medical supervision.

It’s important to always follow the instructions on how to use your medication from your doctor.

Keep the medication secure, attend regular check-ups, and use buprenorphine only as directed by a medical professional. These tips will help ensure you don’t abuse prescription opioids.



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