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What is buprenorphine?

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 effects

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.

Signs of overdose or indications that you should stop buprenorphine use include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of faintness
  • Respiratory depression or cessation of breathing
  • Sedation

Is buprenorphine addictive?

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

To explore more about buprenorphine, see:


22 Does Suboxone (buprenorphine) treat pain?

Does Suboxone (buprenorphine) treat pain?

March 25th, 2014

Buprenorphine (the main ingredient in Suboxone) is a potent opioid analgesic, and has been used intravenously to treat pain for over 30 years. More on Suboxone for pain here.

18 How does buprenorphine work?

How does buprenorphine work?

February 4th, 2014

Buprenorphine is a partial mu-receptor agonist that attaches to receptors in the brain. More on how burprenorphine works in the central nervous system and in the body here.

2 How to treat buprenorphine addiction

How to treat buprenorphine addiction

January 9th, 2014

There are specific ways to identify a buprenorphine addict. More on what to look for and the options for medical help during buprenorphine addiction treatment here.

624 How long does buprenorphine withdrawal last?

How long does buprenorphine withdrawal last?

September 11th, 2013

Physical withdrawal from buprenorphine usually resolves within a couple weeks. However, the psychological buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms can last for months or longer. Here we review how long buprenorphine withdrawal lasts and what you can do to help ease the effects.

23 What are buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms?

What are buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms?

July 28th, 2013

Buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms are flu-like in nature and are similar to those of other opioids, both psychological and physical. Learn more about buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms here.

35 How to withdraw from buprenorphine

How to withdraw from buprenorphine

July 15th, 2013

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid-agonist, and the effects of the drug resemble those of other opioids. So the safest way to withdraw from buprenorphine is under the supervision of a doctor or counselor. Guidelines and suggestions here.

40 Mixing Buprenorphine with Alcohol

Mixing Buprenorphine with Alcohol

June 1st, 2013

Mixing buprenorphine and alcohol triggers respiratory depression, which can lead to decreased levels of oxygen to the brain, brain damage, or death. More on the harms and risks of concurrent drug use here.

14 What is buprenorphine withdrawal?

What is buprenorphine withdrawal?

April 13th, 2013

Buprenorphine withdrawal feels like severe flu symptoms, combined with mood disorder(s). Find out more about buprenorphine withdrawal here.

90 How long does buprenorphine stay in your system?

How long does buprenorphine stay in your system?

November 13th, 2011

Buprenorphine can stay in your system and be detectable up to 4 days after ingestion. With a long half life (24-60 hours) and slow onset, buprenorphine is becoming the preferred medication for opiate addiction treatment. More on buprenorphine bio-availability and tracking here.

48 Buprenorphine half life

Buprenorphine half life

September 8th, 2011

The half life of buprenorphine is between 24-60 hours. Learn why buprenorphine half life is so long and the difference between half life and distribution half life here.

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8 Responses to “Buprenorphine
6:31 pm November 15th, 2017

Will4mg of bunaval show up in a urine test after not taking for 13 days?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
2:46 pm November 16th, 2017

Hi Tammy. Yes and no. The active ingredients in Bunaval can be detected ( buprenorphine and naloxone), but only if tested for specifically. If you are enrolled in an opioid treatment program (OTP), your physician may order a comprehensive panel, for a variety of reasons. If you like to learn more about drug testing, download our free guide:

7:52 am December 16th, 2017

I’m currently taking 24 mg of sublingual Suboxone daily in order to stop my dependance on Oxycodone. I suffer with chronic pain & was prescribed Oxycodone IR (10mg) 6 times daily & Oxycodone XR (10mg) 3 times daily but found that the XR’s weren’t working due to poor digestion caused by gastritis. Even with taking such a high dose of Suboxone for almost 4 months now it still doesn’t last 24 hrs. I experience withdrawal everyday before presenting at the pharmacy for my daily dose. Wouldn’t it be more effective for me to switch back to Oxycodone IR same dose as before but add buprenorphine patch to replace the oxycodone XR as it wouldn’t have to be digested? Sorry for the long question 🤗 Thanks

Maria @ Addiction Blog
5:12 pm December 22nd, 2017

Hi CathyAnna. Your withdrawals are already a signal that something with your dose or your medications is not quite right. The body’s signals should not be ignored. As for the switch, I strongly recommend you decide it in accordance with your doctor. Speak to him/her about your concerns. He/she will decide whether it is best to make the switch or not. Do not do anything by yourself because there is always the risk to harm yourself.

11:55 pm January 8th, 2018

I have been on buprenorphine patches (strength 35) for some time now for back and hip pain and my appetite is decreasing. I really can’t think of anything I would like to eat although I do try to eat something every day.

9:23 pm May 6th, 2018

interesting and informative for me article on buprenorphine. ?i would like to do an extended period of stopping my usage. do you have any advise for me?


Lydia @ Addiction Blog
1:20 pm May 7th, 2018

Hi Rob. I suggest that you consult with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

5:58 pm May 21st, 2018

If you are having compulsive or obsessive thinking about buprenorphine perhaps you should be on methadone buprenorphine does not cause those symptoms. It become innocuous to a point you forget to take it. If you are craving more buprenorphine when doses are lowered or stopped your not ready to have the drug lowered or stopped. It becomes effective when it no longer comes to mind. This could take weeks months or years. People do not lose control of buprenorphine use because it has a ceiling effect and it doesn’t get you high. There is no using buprenorphine despite negative consequences to home, work, or health. There is a greater chance of you being struck by lightning than being harmed by buprenorphine alone. It is also a very effective pain medication. It should be taken away from medical doctors and given to nurse practitioners that would be required to take insurance and Medicare. Let medical doctors practice medicine instead of what they become. scared

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