Can Buprenorphine Treat Opioid Addiction?

Medication-assisted treatment is the most effective way to treat opioid addiction. One of the medications FDA-approved to treat opioid addiction is the partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine, also known as Subutex or Suboxone.

Can Buprenorphine Be Used To Treat Opioid Addiction?

Research shows that opioid use disorder, also known as opioid addiction, can be most effectively treated with what is known as medication-assisted treatment.

Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, combines behavioral therapy and drug counseling with the use of certain medications for opioid use disorder.

Buprenorphine is one of three medications FDA-approved for this purpose. When taken as directed, this medication can treat withdrawal, reduce cravings, and help prevent relapse in recovery.

What Is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is the generic name for a prescription medication prescribed for the treatment of opioid addiction, acute pain, and chronic pain.

Brand names for buprenorphine include:

  • Subutex: sublingual tablet
  • Bunavail (buprenorphine/naloxone): buccal film
  • Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone): sublingual film
  • Zubsolv (buprenorphine/naloxone): sublingual tablet
  • Probuphine: implant
  • Sublocade: extended-release injection

What Kind Of Prescription Drug Is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means, like other opioids, it acts on opioid receptors in the body.

However, its effects are milder because it is only a partial agonist. Adding naloxone to certain formulations of buprenorphine (e.g. Suboxone) also reduces the potential for drug misuse.

How Does Buprenorphine Work For Substance Use Disorder?

Because buprenorphine works similarly to full opioid agonists, taking it can reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal, relieve pain, and help prevent drug cravings.

When prescribed as part of a medication-assisted treatment plan, it is typically taken daily, or every other day, depending on each person’s treatment needs.

Buprenorphine may be prescribed to treat addiction to oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, or other prescription opioids of abuse as part of a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program.

Is Buprenorphine Safe?

Yes. Buprenorphine, Subutex, Suboxone, and other formulations of this drug are safe to take for opioid addiction when taken as directed by a clinician.

Although it has a potential for misuse, this risk is reduced when taking a formulation that has the added ingredient of naloxone – which is an opioid antagonist.

Buprenorphine can produce mild euphoria and respiratory depression in moderate doses.

But unlike full opioid agonists, buprenorphine has a ceiling effect that prevents these effects from causing serious harm or fatal overdose.

What Are The Benefits Of Buprenorphine For Opioid Addiction?

Medications for opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine, can help people heal from the physical and mental health effects of opioid addiction.

Benefits of this treatment include:

  • increased treatment retention (i.e. increases the duration of time someone continues to attend treatment)
  • reduces the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • prevents or reduces cravings for opioids
  • can help restore normalcy in one’s daily life
  • increases safety in cases of opioid overdose
  • increases ability to gain and maintain employment in recovery
  • improves birth outcomes for people with opioid use disorder who are pregnant

That’s according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which recommends MAT as a first-line treatment for opioid addiction.

What Other Medications Are Used To Treat Opioid Addiction?

Methadone treatment and naltrexone treatment (Vivitrol) are two other MAT interventions that are FDA-approved for treating opioid addiction.

When Can You Start Taking Buprenorphine?

A person with opioid dependence must be opioid-free for at least 12 to 24 hours, in the early stages of opioid withdrawal, before taking buprenorphine.

Beginning buprenorphine, or buprenorphine/naloxone combination products, before then could result in severe, acute withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

How Long Does Buprenorphine Work For Opioid Dependence?

Within a detox program, buprenorphine may be given within the first 24 hours of detoxification to quickly help relieve withdrawal symptoms caused by other opioid analgesics.

But a daily dose or alternate-day dose of buprenorphine can be safely taken for weeks, months, or years for opiate dependence to help promote long-term recovery from addiction.

Does Buprenorphine Have Side Effects?

Side effects of buprenorphine, such as headache, difficulty sleeping, and constipation, can occur while taking this prescription medication for opioid dependence.

Severe side effects are rare, but may include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • withdrawal
  • adrenal insufficiency
  • itching, pain, nerve damage, or swelling (implant)
  • neonatal abstinence syndrome (in clients who are pregnant)

If you do experience severe side effects of buprenorphine while taking this drug, contact your prescribing healthcare provider right away for further drug use instruction.

Where To Find Buprenorphine Treatment

Buprenorphine can be acquired both on an outpatient level, or within an opioid addiction rehab program as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan.

On an outpatient level, the use of buprenorphine can only be prescribed by qualified physicians who have received a buprenorphine waiver.

At, our treatment specialists can locate buprenorphine treatment options for addiction at a rehab center or physician’s office near you.

Get Help For Opioid Addiction Today

Our mission is to help connect people with opioid addiction and their families with the resources they need to succeed and thrive in addiction recovery.

To find buprenorphine treatment for yourself or an addicted loved one, call our helpline for more information and treatment locations today.

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