Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic partial opioid designed to help treat addiction to heroin or other opiate-based substances. Opiates work by affecting certain receptors in the brain, and buprenorphine attaches to these same receptors, but the match isn’t quite perfect. While this sound negative, what this actually does is block the receptor for longer than other opiates or opioids, due to buprenorphine’s slower rate of dissociation, thus occupying them but without all the effects of opioids. This tricks the brain into thinking it has received the opiates or opioids it craves, since the receptors are occupied, but doesn’t trigger powerful and disturbing euphoric effects. It is for this reason that buprenorphine is used to treat heroin and opiate addictions. It doesn’t cause the damage that these drugs cause, but it tricks the brain into thinking it’s getting them, so it doesn’t send the body into withdrawals, or the withdrawal symptoms are greatly lessened.
Buprenorphine Withdrawals and Effects
The symptoms of withdrawal from buprenorphine feel like a severe case of the flu. While the drug is designed to help wean a person off of opiates and heroin addiction, buprenorphine itself is habit-forming, so it should be used carefully and can only be prescribed by doctors who have undergone special training and have received a waiver. Taking buprenorphine can cause reduced breathing and decreased pain, as well as other typical effects of opioids, although to a significantly lesser degree.
Buprenorphine – The Lesser of Two Addictions
Now, one may ask what the point of taking buprenorphine is if it’s also addictive and causes withdrawals. That’s a fair question. First and foremost, buprenorphine doesn’t cause the damage that heroin and other opiates cause when taken, so that right there is solid reason. Furthermore, while withdrawing from buprenorphine is a pretty unpleasant experience, described like a severe flu, it’s significantly less unpleasant than withdrawals from heroin or other opiates. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, changes in sleep habits and appetite, mood swings, cold sweats, and body aches. These symptoms can vary depending on how long the user has been taking the drug and the severity of the dependence and can vary from person to person. Some people only experience mild symptoms, while others can have a much more severe experience. Fortunately, these symptoms tend to peak after 2-5 days after the last dose.
How Can I Cope With Buprenorphine Withdrawals?
Coping with the symptoms of buprenorphine withdrawal, are much easier when managed at a buprenorphine detox treatment center. Detoxification is the process of getting the drug(s) out of your system before seeking other treatment. It’s important to note that detox, by itself, is not enough to stop dependency and is only the first step in treatment for addiction. Home remedies focus on dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal as they arise. Body aches and other pains can be treated with mild, over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, as well as warm baths and heating pads when physical pain arises. For the psychological symptoms, seeking aid from a sober friend or support group is recommended. It may be necessary to quit buprenorphine without pharmaceutical aid because buprenorphine itself is a drug designed to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and detox. However, certain medications that contain naloxone, such as Suboxone, may be prescribed as it counters buprenorphine.
Doctors Prescribing Buprenorphine
As previously stated, only doctors who have completed special training and have received a certificate may prescribe buprenorphine in order to treat opioid addiction. Furthermore, no doctor may have more than 30 patients prescribed buprenorphine at any time. This is to prevent fake prescriptions. For the best results, it is very important to follow the doctor’s recommendations for use and not to change the timeline or prescribed doses. It is also extremely important that buprenorphine not be taken with any drugs or medication and under no circumstances should it be taken with alcohol. Such drug interactions will serve only to increase the adverse effects of the drugs, elevating them to potentially dangerous and unknown limits.