Buprenorphine Effects: Treatment, Pain Management, and Safety

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Buprenorphine is a medication used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings, and Opioid Use Disorder.

It can also be used as a safer alternative to other pain medications when it comes to managing severe and chronic pain.

However, what side effects can you expect from Buprenorphine? In this article, we will discuss how Buprenorphine works and the side effects you should know about. We will cover:

  • How Buprenorphine produces its effects
  • How it can be used to treat Opioid Use Disorder
  • Its use for pain management
  • Common and serious side effects of Buprenorphine treatment
  • Whether Buprenorphine is safe to use if you are pregnant.

Let’s get started.

How Does Buprenorphine Work?

Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder, amongst other conditions.

Buprenorphine works as a partial agonist. This means that it binds to Mu-Opioid receptors found in the brain and helps people with opioid dependence to overcome opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Because the medication is only a partial agonist, you will not experience the same eutrophic effects as other, more potent opioids.

However, it will mimic the effect of strong opioids such as morphine and heroin to prevent the unpleasant symptoms that result from abrupt withdrawal.

Taking Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a prescription medication. Buprenorphine is available in a range of formulations, including as a buccal film, sublingual tablet, injections, or as a Buprenorphine implant.

There are also different doses available, depending on the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.

Buprenorphine For Opioid Use Disorder

Buprenorphine was approved in 2002 by the FDA to help people with opioid addictions become sober.

The medication can be prescribed by a healthcare professional as part of Medications-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder to prevent Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome, as well as to manage drug cravings.

Buprenorphine For Pain Management

Sadly, for many people, opioid addiction starts with legal opioid prescriptions for the treatment of pain.

Due to the addictive nature of opioids, this can result in physical dependence – especially for people with chronic pain.

Since Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it binds to the same locations as more potent opioids do.

It can therefore be used as an opioid pain medicine for acute pain management that has a lower risk of addiction compared to other prescription or illicit opioids.

According to studies:

“Buprenorphine offers a safer alternative for patients who require opioids to manage chronic pain, given the unique pharmacological properties that allow it to provide adequate analgesia with less abuse potential.”

It may also be prescribed for severe pain after surgery, for example.

Buprenorphine For Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Medication Assisted Treatment is a plan that uses medication (along with other interventions such as social support) to overcome opioid addiction.

Medication Assisted Therapy usually works in 3 phases: induction, stabilization, and maintenance.

Buprenorphine can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms in the early stages of detoxification and can help manage drug cravings.

Side Effects and Risks of Buprenorphine

One of the most common questions about buprenorphine is what side effects are associated with taking this medication.

Because buprenorphine works similarly to other opioid drugs, the adverse effects experienced are similar to those of other opioids.

In general, the adverse effects are dependent on the dose of buprenorphine, formulation, and prior usage of opioids.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Buprenorphine administration include:

  • Nausea
  • Heartache
  • Drowsiness
  •  Constipation
  • Loss Of Appetite.

Serious side effects

While serious side effects are rare, they are still important to be aware of.

In general, the highest risk for harm is for people who accidentally take Buprenorphine and have never taken opioids before.

It is also very dangerous to mix medications, such as using depressants along with buprenorphine.

Serious side effects can include:

  • Respiratory depression or Life-Threatening Respiratory Depression: As opioids cause shallow breathing, combining buprenorphine with other depressant drugs can be dangerous
  • Dependence: Since buprenorphine is an opioid, it is technically considered as being addictive.

However, the risk of becoming addicted to buprenorphine is considerably less than with other opioids. Nevertheless, it still carries a risk of misuse

  • Allergic reactions: Although allergic reactions to opioids are rare, they can occur – especially in people who have not taken opioid drugs before
  • Problems with the Adrenal Glands: Long-term use of opioids is associated with problems with the adrenal glands.

A healthcare professional will check for hepatic impairment before prescribing the medication, as Buprenorphine can cause a build-up of active metabolites in the body – resulting in accidental overdose.

Can Pregnant Women Take Buprenorphine?

Yes, studies have supported the use of Buprenorphine treatment for pregnant women, suggesting that it is not unsafe for the unborn child.

While this must be carefully discussed with a healthcare provider, Buprenorphine-naloxone can be administered to pregnant people.

According to the CDC, Buprenorphine is the first line treatment of for opioid dependence in pregnant women.

This means that it is the first choice of medication to use for people who are addicted to opioids.

However, there may be some symptoms after birth such as problems eating, sleeping, or consoling.

It is important to note that treatment with Buprenorphine is still likely safer for your baby than continuing to use other more potent opioid drugs.

Suboxone

Suboxone is a form of Buprenorphine, which is commonly prescribed for the treatment of opioid addiction. It combines Buprenorphine with an opioid blocker, naloxone.

Together, this allows Buprenorphine to have its effect and reduce withdrawal symptoms while also blocking the effect of strong opioids and preventing Buprenorphine misuse.

Depending on your needs or risk level, your doctor may prescribe Suboxone instead of Buprenorphine alone.

Conclusion

Buprenorphine is a medication that can help those with Opioid Use Disorder manage their addiction.

If you are considering this treatment, it is important to discuss the potential benefits and side effects with a healthcare professional.

Additionally, if you are concerned about the risk of dependence on other opioids and are suffering from a pain disorder, you should also discuss the possibility of using Buprenorphine instead of other drugs.

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