Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic drug made in laboratories that is used to treat chronic and severe pain and to help recovering opiate/opioid users avoid withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine is made from thebaine, an alkaloid derived from opium poppies. Because it is derived from opium poppies, buprenorphine is an opioid drug.
How is buprenorphine used?
Buprenorphine is available in brand names SUBUTEX®, BUTRANS® and BUPRENEX®. Additionally, buprenorphine preparations with drug naloxone are available in brand names SUBOXONE® and ZUBSOLY®. Buprenorphine is also available in sublingual tablets (taken by placing under the tongue and allowed to dissolve slowly). Sublingual films (which work like sublingual tablets) and extended-release transdermal patches are also available. Buprenorphine hydrochloride is used for deep injection in the muscles (intramuscular) and for transfusion in the veins (intravenous).
Buprenorphine has medicinal value in relieving moderate to severe pain, much like its sister drug, morphine. In this way, buprenorphine is a painkiller and doctors prescribe it to patients suffering from persistent pain caused by surgery, cancer and neuropathy. What are some other effects of buprenorphine? However, buprenorphine is also valued therapeutically because it can be used as opiate substitution therapy for former drug addicts. Buprenorphine delays symptoms of opioid/opiate withdrawal and addresses cravings for stronger narcotics like morphine or heroin.
Some people use buprenorphine as a recreational drug. Like other opioids, buprenorphine can elicit euphoria described as “high” that causes some people to abuse the drug. Some users describe having pleasant feelings, elevated mood and drifting consciousness on using buprenorphine. Still, buprenorphine can cause adverse effects, some of which are life-threatening.
Yes, buprenorphine can be addictive. But its addiction liability is considered low. Like other opioid drugs, buprenorphine does have potential to become habit forming (a.k.a. buprenorphine dependence) and also has potential for abuse. These are the main reasons why buprenorphine use and availability is highly restricted. The main signs of problems with buprenorphine abuse include:
compulsive or obsessive thinking about buprenorphine
craving more buprenorphine when doses are lowered or stopped
loss of control of buprenorphine use
using buprenorphine despite negative consequences to home, work, or health