The generic medication buprenorphine is better known by its brand names, Suboxone and Subutex. It constitutes a therapy option for managing addiction to opiates in an outpatient setting. Some methadone programs offer buprenorphine therapy and some do not but are planning to do so. Call your local program to see what they offer.
Buprenorphine has been approved by the FDA for use in addiction treatment since 2002. It is formulated as Subutex, which is simply buprenorphine, and Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenex is an injectable medication used for pain management, and it is not used for medication-assisted therapy.
Is It a Valid Treatment Option?
Some people still reject the idea of medication to help with addiction treatment. They say you are exchanging one addiction for another, but that is not the case. Think about the people who see their doctors because of heart disease or diabetes. Certainly they need their medication in order to feel well and stay alive, and nobody questions it. Addiction treatment specialists recognize that addiction is a medical diagnosis, and they will provide the help you need when you find that you’re in over your head. If you are using heroin or one of the other opiates—hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl—you can find help without shame or embarrassment at an opioid treatment program (OTP).
Buprenorphine Therapy Versus Methadone
Methadone has been around about fifty years longer than buprenorphine. However, many doctors worry that methadone carries higher risks of addiction and overdose. Both methadone and buprenorphine start out similarly; both of them stimulate the brain’s manufacture of biochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, but the effects of buprenorphine are much more limited. Some people take methadone to get high, but buprenorphine does not allow the user to experience any kind of euphoric feeling.
Buprenorphine therapy also presents a lesser potential for addiction. It does not have the same perfect fit into the brain’s receptors as methadone, meaning that buprenorphine offers a reduced degree of bioavailability. Even though you will not get high from this medication, your withdrawal symptoms will diminish and you will no longer notice any cravings.
While you have to take your methadone dosage and also Vivitrol right at the medication-assisted treatment program, buprenorphine is the only medication approved by the FDA for use outside of a doctor’s office. You can take your prescription to a pharmacy and have it filled.
There’s a Longer Waiting List for Buprenorphine
The federal government limits the number of patients that a doctor can treat. All doctors who can prescribe buprenorphine have taken special certification training as ordered by the FDA. In the first year of managing buprenorphine patients, doctors can have a total of 30 patients, and beyond that they can treat 100 patients. The number is the same even if they practice at more than one location. So there is a longer waiting list for those who seek buprenorphine therapy.
Buprenorphine therapy is more expensive than methadone, so your type of insurance comes into play, and you will have to check with case managers at the methadone program to see if they bill insurance or not. Call your local clinic to see what’s available where you live and how to get started.