Buprenorphine has been in clinical use since 2002 to help with opioid dependency and addiction. Like its methadone counterpart, counseling and other supportive services are recommended to help patients achieve long-term recovery in buprenorphine treatment.
Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, meaning that it activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but to a much lesser extent than a full agonist. This is the primary difference between how methadone and buprenorphine are used to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect” limiting its ability to be used to get “high” or feel euphoria. Additionally, it acts as an antagonist, blocking other opioids while still effectively reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
A proper dose in buprenorphine treatment varies for each person, but typically begins more aggressively than with methadone because of the ceiling effect. Buprenorphine, and buprenorphine compounds such as Suboxone ® , have been shown to be more effective at lower doses overall. At a certain point, increasing the dose may not provide additional benefit. It is important to note that before beginning a buprenorphine treatment program a patient must be experiencing mild discomfort or withdrawals.
Most side effects are reported as mild, and if experienced, should be discussed with your counselor or physician as a dosage adjustment may help. Side effects can include:
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