Buprenorphine patches are a type of opioid medication that is used to treat chronic pain or opioid addiction. The patches provide long-term pain relief that typically lasts several days.
You can only be prescribed buprenorphine patches by your doctor, so make sure you talk to a healthcare professional first before using them.
However, if you’re worried about using the patches for a prolonged period and want to understand the risks and benefits associated with their use, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’ll discuss:
- How the patches work
- The benefits of using buprenorphine patches
- The risks associated with using them.
Let’s get started.
How the Buprenorphine Patch Works
Buprenorphine patches work by slowly releasing buprenorphine into your body.
The patches are placed onto clean, non-irritated skin and work for up to several days. It’s important to always follow advice from your healthcare provider before using the patches.
Like other forms of buprenorphine, the drug works by acting on the central nervous system.
Buprenorphine interrupts signals sent between your brain and body, which can help relieve people of severe pain.
Buprenorphine Patch vs other forms of Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine also comes in two other forms: an injection, or a sublingual tablet. Injections and tablets work a lot faster than the patches These make them good for a short-term solution, while the patches are better for use over an extended period.
The Benefits of the Buprenorphine Patch
Continuous pain relief
As mentioned above, the biggest benefit of the buprenorphine patch is that it’s long-lasting.
This means you can leave it to work for multiple days at a time, giving you longer-lasting pain relief.
Convenience and compliance factors
Another benefit is that the patches are convenient to use. Other forms of buprenorphine such as the sublingual tablet or injection are immediate-release opioids and thus last for a shorter amount of time.
This means you have to keep taking them every few hours, while the patch can stay on your body for several days.
Having a patch is also convenient for people who might have trouble swallowing or experience nausea/vomiting. Absorbing buprenorphine directly through the skin can make for a more pleasant pain relief experience.
Reduced abuse potential compared to other opioid forms
Finally, buprenorphine patches are a much safer way of taking other opioids. While there is still a risk of physical dependence, it’s much harder to abuse it.
This is because the patch is long-lasting, and you might only change it every few days or weekly. Other short-acting opioids need to be taken multiple times a day, which risks making them a habit.
For this reason, buprenorphine patches are also a good treatment for opioid addiction. They help relieve addicts of opioid withdrawal symptoms while providing more stability in their lives.
Indications and Uses of the Buprenorphine Patch
Buprenorphine patches have two main uses: to treat moderate to severe chronic pain and to treat opioid addiction.
As pain relief, buprenorphine patches are used when long-term continuous pain treatment is needed, and other forms of pain relief might not be suitable. For example, just after surgery.
As a treatment for opioid addiction, buprenorphine is used to help mitigate the withdrawal symptoms of other opioids. It’s commonly used with other drugs to help provide relief while slowly taking them off the drug.
Application and Dosage of the Buprenorphine Patch
Instructions for applying
Use your buprenorphine patch only as directed by your doctor. This might mean changing it every three, four, or seven days depending on the strength.
Here’s a general guide for applying a new patch, but always read the instructions that come with your patch first:
- Make sure that you’ve removed your old patch before applying a new one.
- Remove the new patch from its pouch, making sure you don’t cut it unless instructed. You’ll then need to remove the plastic protecting the sticky side of the patch; make sure you avoid touching it with your hands, as accidental exposure might lead to an overdose.
This is also why it’s important to keep the patches away from children and to dispose of them safely.
- Now apply the patch to a dry, non-irritated flat surface of skin. This could be on your upper chest, arm, back, or side of your chest.
- You’ll need to press the patch firmly into your skin for at least 15 seconds, preferably longer, to ensure the patch sticks firmly to your skin.
- Now that you’re done applying the patch, remember to wash your hands with plain water.
If you’re applying more than one patch, follow your doctor’s instructions and apply it to a separate part of the skin – making sure the two patches don’t overlap.
Dosage variations and titration
Buprenorphine patches come in a few different dosage strengths. The strength depends on what your doctor prescribes you based on what you’re taking it for.
Other factors like how long you need it for, how well you respond to other painkillers, if you’re on other medication, and if you experience side effects are also taken into account.
The patches can release 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, or 20mg of buprenorphine every hour for seven days. For stronger dosages, they can release 35mg, 52.5mg, or 70mg every hour for three or four days at a time.
Duration of effectiveness for each patch
A single buprenorphine patch will typically last for a few days. However, this depends on the dosage and how often you’ve been instructed to reapply it.
As the patches are slow-releasing, they can work for up to several days before needing a new one.
The Side Effects and Risks of the Buprenorphine Patch
Like any other medication, buprenorphine comes with a few potential side effects. These are more common in higher doses of the drug, and for most people, you won’t feel any side effects at all:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble sleeping
- Stomach pain
- Skin reactions such as rashes.
If you experience any side effects that don’t go away, seek medical attention immediately.
Some of the more serious side effects of the buprenorphine patch can include breathing trouble or an allergic reaction. Call 911 immediately if you feel like you cannot breathe or feel extremely dizzy for a long period of time.
There is also a risk of fatal overdose when using buprenorphine. Because the patches release the drug over an extended period, more buprenorphine is present. This means you’re at a higher risk of overdose and death.
Another risk is that exposure to heat or sunlight can increase the amount of buprenorphine absorbed into your skin.
Make sure you avoid things like heating pads, hot baths, electric blankets, hot water bottles, and sunbathing.
Buprenorphine patches also come with a risk of addiction and physical dependence.
When used for a prolonged period of time, your tolerance for the drug will go up – meaning you’ll have to increase your dose. This is why buprenorphine patches are typically only used for a short amount of time to treat chronic pain.
How Much is the Buprenorphine Patch?
The price of the buprenorphine patch depends on a few different factors, such as the dosage and brand. Your doctor will prescribe you the one that’s most suitable for you.
You can expect to pay anywhere between $50 – $150 for a single patch.
Buprenorphine patches are a useful treatment for chronic pain or opioid addiction, as they provide long-lasting pain relief for people suffering from severe pain.
Understanding the potential risks and benefits before starting new treatment is always vital.
Make sure you only use the patches as directed by a healthcare professional. If you experience prolonged side effects, seek medical attention immediately.