Buprenorphine Addiction – Abuse, Effects, Treatment & Recovery


What is buprenorphine? 

Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved synthetic opioid drug that is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction as well as being used in the treatment of chronic pain. Buprenorphine, as with any MAT, should be prescribed under a careful treatment plan and supervision of a licensed medical professional. Unlike other MAT drugs such as methadone, the substance can be prescribed immediately in doctors’ offices, making it highly accessible compared to other prescription opiates.

Other MATs include methadone (and methadone combination medicine) and naltrexone (a naloxone combination medicine).

Buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid addiction therapy

Buprenorphine treatment is prescribed for treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and is available in (but not limited to) the following medications:

  • Various naloxone combination sublingual tablets
  • Subutex – sublingual buprenorphine tablets
  • Suboxone – naloxone combination sublingual film
  • Zubsolv – naloxone combination sublingual tablets
  • Bunavail – naloxone combination buccal film
  • Probuphine – implants or patches
  • Sublocade – extended-release injection

Why is a medication like buprenorphine prescribed?

While doctors sometimes prescribe this medication as a painkiller, it is most commonly used to treat opioid addiction or dependence in much the same fashion as methadone. The drug is a partial agonist opioid — meaning that it can trigger some, but not all of the opioid receptors in the brain.

When the drug is mixed with naloxone (a common medication used to reverse opioid effects and reactions such as overdose), it can prevent symptoms of withdrawal from stronger opiates, with much less risk for addiction or dependence than a medicine such as methadone. If the correct dosing of the medicine is paired with counseling, it can be effective in lowering the risk of dangerous side effects and overdose.

Although physicians prescribed buprenorphine is not as dangerous as “street” opiates, it still has all the common effects associated with opioid drugs; it produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation, though they are weaker than drugs such as fentanyl or methadone. Despite its weakness, there is strong evidence that the medicine can cause dependency, addiction, or exacerbate substance use disorders.

Taking buprenorphine as prescribed can:

  • Lessen the physical symptoms of opioid abuse (such as withdrawal).
  • Be less likely to cause a fatal overdose.
  • Is less likely to be abused or misused.

Buprenorphine – sublingual & buccal opioid dependence & opiate addiction

Because it is a partial opioid agonist and does produce the same euphoric effects as other opiates, it has the potential for misuse. To mitigate this risk, it is often combined with naloxone to relieve some of its addictive properties.

In cases where the substance is misused, users will often crush buprenorphine to be snorted, or by dissolving it into an intravenous solution. Most patients who are prescribed the drug in the United States are supervised every day for the first two months after beginning a comprehensive treatment plan. Healthcare professionals such as doctors or pharmacists are also advised to keep an eye out for users who are trying to acquire the drug in suspicious doses.

Although it is uncommon, people can overdose from buprenorphine, especially if it is taken in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or additional opiates.

Symptoms and health effects of buprenorphine use

Buprenorphine use usually starts by taking moderate doses with the intention of pain reduction or to overcome addiction/withdrawal symptoms, with a legitimate prescription from a doctor or health care professional. However, because it is less intensely regulated than other, stronger opioids such as methadone and fentanyl, it can be relatively easy to acquire if a person develops a dependence or wants to abuse buprenorphine medications.

Symptoms of use often include:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Apathy
  • Drowsiness
  • Pleasure
  • Numbness
  • Shallow breathing

Other common side effects and physical symptoms of buprenorphine include:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach aches or abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Slow or weakened heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depressed breathing or inability to breathe at all
  • Blue lips and/or fingernails
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Death

The health risks become even higher if the drug is combined with alcohol or other drugs.

If you see someone exhibiting signs of opioid overdose, call 911 immediately and request emergency medical care.

Other potential effects or risks from buprenorphine abuse

Unfortunately, many people combine their buprenorphine use with other substances in an attempt to reach a greater high. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants such as alcohol and other opiates are common choices for those looking to add to their drug abuse, which can cause extreme health risks, including psychological symptoms like mental health disorders and physiological ones like respiratory failure.

Signs of buprenorphine addiction

People may develop an addiction to the substance after continued use and/or abuse of the drug. Users often feel a false sense of security when taking buprenorphine because it is not considered to be as powerful or addictive as other opiate family members such as methadone.

Regardless of its potency, every opioid has the potential for causing dependency and addiction because they all affect the brain in the same way. The brain’s reaction to opioids is called neuroadaptation.

Our body produces endorphins naturally as a response to various stimuli: pain, pleasure, stress, excitement, etc. Endorphins reduce pain and cause a feeling of relaxation. Opioids have the same effect—they affect endorphin receptors, causing the body to adapt over time and stop producing natural endorphins. As more opioids are introduced into the body and trigger opioid/opiate receptors, more endorphin receptors are created, which in turn demand more opioids. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of demand and supply. A person’s dependence on opioids creates a powerful neuro-biological reaction, causing a constant demand for more opioids.

Some signs of opioid abuse, dependency, or addiction include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Short attention span
  • Impaired judgment
  • Dilated pupils
  • Lack of coordination during activity
  • Lessened reactions to outside stimuli
  • Slow breathing

Long term signs of opioid abuse, dependency, or addiction include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired memory
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pains
  • Respiratory depression or stopped breathing
  • Death
  • Withdrawal symptoms

As with other opiates, prolonged use can cause dependence on the substance. Though, unlike other medicine used to treat opioid dependence (such as methadone), it has less potential for abuse.

Buprenorphine overdose & substance abuse in the United States

Although buprenorphine isn’t as strong as some other opiates, there is evidence that overdose is still very possible when the abuse or dependence occurs. Opiates work by depressing the central nervous system, which is essential to the proper function of the brain, respiratory system, and heart. An overdose can cause breathing to slow significantly—fatally reducing the supply of oxygen to the brain and causing a rapid degeneration or death of brain cells. Symptoms of this process can cause fatal reactions such as coma, seizure, and brain damage.

In a 2016 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths due to opioid use disorders and overdose have increased by 200% since 2000.

If someone is showing symptoms of overdose, contact the emergency assistance immediately by calling 911.

Prescription drugs & buprenorphine

Prescription opioids come with a high risk for dependence. Patients can find themselves reliant on the drugs for pain relief or to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When they can’t get these drugs legally, they often turn to illegal drugs to satisfy opioid cravings—despite the risk of overdose, adverse effects, or even death. This is often why doctors give patients struggling with opioid addiction access to buprenorphine. A formulation of buprenorphine and naloxone can be used as treatment for opioid addiction or another illicit drug dependence, though oftentimes it simply exacerbates the issue.

Contact ANR Clinic today to learn more about our revolutionary, evidence-based care methods that minimize unwanted effects of opiates and withdrawal symptoms.

ANR treatment was invented by Dr. Andre Waismann. Dr. Waismann identified the biological roots of dependency. Since then, Dr. Waismann and his medical professionals have successfully treated more than 24,000 patients worldwide that are struggling with opioid addiction. Throughout his career, he has lectured and educated health professionals in dozens of countries around the world.

Buprenorphine FAQ

The substance is most commonly used for the treatment of opiate addiction in much the same way as drugs like methadone. It is also sometimes used for pain relief, though this is not as common. It is an opioid drug that is often combined with naloxone to mitigate the potential for misuse.
A healthcare professional will first need to assess whether you need addiction treatment or individual therapy to help with opioid use disorder. They may need to gain some evidence to first make sure that you are eligible to receive the medicine. If so, they will most likely create a comprehensive, long-term treatment plan that may include supervised daily doses as part of a medical advice diagnosis or treatment.
You should only have buprenorphine in your possession if it is part of a treatment for pain or addiction to opioids. If you no longer need to use the drug as part of your treatment plan, you should stop taking buprenorphine and discard any excess you have.
Buprenorphine can help with sleep, especially if constant pain is keeping you awake. However, the effect of buprenorphine can also have a severe impact on sleeping habits — especially in the withdrawal phase. People taking the drug may experience feelings of relaxation and drowsiness, however, if the user begins to feel symptoms of opiate withdrawal, it can also cause insomnia. This may, in turn, lead the user to become reliant on sleeping pills to get to sleep—causing a co-occurring addiction to opioids and sleeping pills.
The best way to know if you are taking the correct dose of the drug is to consult your healthcare professional. After assessing your physical and psychological symptoms, they will be able to prescribe you the correct buprenorphine dose if you need it.
While these two drugs are both used in opioid medication-assisted treatments that help people to come off stronger opioids, they are not the same. Recently, methadone has been used less and less due to it still having a relatively high abuse and overdose potential.
A combination of buprenorphine and naloxone is used to create a mild opioid drug that has greatly reduced potential for abuse compared to other opioids. The naloxone in the medicine works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors in much the same way that opioids do, thus blocking them from taking effect. This combination is capable of decreasing the symptoms of withdrawal for approximately 24 hours.
Buprenorphine can be found in a variety of different opioid medications, especially those that combine it with naloxone. Common medicines containing the drug include Subutex, Suboxone, Zubsolv, and Bunavail.
Yes. Abstinence syndrome is caused when a baby experiences withdrawals from substances that it was exposed to in the womb. This is often found in babies whose mothers abused opioids during pregnancy.
The road to recovery can be long for buprenorphine addicts and oftentimes, a strategic plan is needed to successfully prevent opioid addiction and subsequently, relapse. Thankfully, there are many forms of opioid addiction disorder health facilities/programs available in the US that can be very effective and in some cases save lives. These drug rehab centers and buprenorphine addiction treatments can be very effective in some cases and can save lives. They include medications for opioid addiction medicine such as methadone, experiential therapy, residential treatment programs, partial hospitalization program (PHP), inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient rehab programs, and cognitive behavioral therapy or individual therapy.
Although both of these drugs contain buprenorphine, Suboxone has become a more widely used and favored medicine by doctors across the United States. This is because Subutex has the potential to be abused by people with opioid use disorders, especially if taken intravenously, as it could give them a high that is closer in nature to a high derived from stronger opioid use.
Yes, you can overdose on Suboxone, just as you can overdose on other buprenorphine brands or street drugs containing buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine hydrochloride is simply another way of dosing the drug — in this case, in the form of a hydrochloride salt.

Accelerated Neuro-Regulation (ANR) is an addiction therapy that aims to bring the nervous system back to health and balance by decreasing receptor production in the brain while allowing the body to resume proper levels of endorphin production. ANR also allows the metabolizing and elimination of unnecessary exogenous opioids from the body. This negates the need for treatment with buprenorphine or therapy with partial opioid agonists as a whole, nullifying the risk of addiction to MAT medicine. The ANR treatment is conducted at various ANR treatment centers for addiction across the country.

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