The duration of action of a drug is known as its half life. Relative to other opioids, the half life of buprenorphine (24-60 hours) is moderately high. Why is this? And how can it benefit buprenorphine users? We review here.
Types of half life
When pharmacists talk about the half life of a drug, certain principles describe the actions of a drug on the body. One is distribution half life. The other is elimination half life.
Distribution half life of buprenorphine = 2-5 hours
Elimination half life of buprenorphine = 24-60 hours
1. Distribution half life – The absorption of buprenorphine is followed by a rapid distribution phase. The distribution half life is amount of time it takes for half of buprenorphine to be distributed throughout the body. Buprenorphine is widely distributed, and takes has a distribution half life of 2-5 hours. But this should not be confused with the time it takes for buprenorphine to leave the body, which is much longer.
2. Elimination half life – The elimination half life of any drug, medication or substance is the period of time necessary for half the drug to be eliminated or disintegrated by natural processes in the body. We usually talk about this type of half life, when describing the action of a drug. The average elimination half life for buprenorphine from plasma is around 32-35 hours.
Half life of buprenorphine
Buprenorphine has a long half life because it is highly bound to plasma proteins. In addition, Buprenorphine has poor oral bioavailability and moderate sublingual bioavailability. This means that buprenorphine is better absorbed by the body when dissolved under the tongue than when swallowed orally.
Benefits of a long half life
The relatively long half life of buprenorphine has been designed to help treat and manage opiate withdrawal symptoms, by maintaining opioid partial agonist levels in the brain. But the main advantage of the long half life of buprenorphine is that this makes once daily dosing for opiate addiction treatment possible. With the ease of administration, people can start to live more normal lives. Sometimes the long half life of buprenorphine makes it possible to delay doses or to switch to alternate day dosing. And with an average half-life of approximately 35 hours, 48 hour and 72 hour dosing is theoretically possible.
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