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    Buprenorphine for Drug Dependence

    Examples

    Generic Name Brand Name
    buprenorphine Subutex
    buprenorphine and naloxone Suboxone

    You take buprenorphine by placing pills under your tongue.

    How It Works

    Buprenorphine is an opioid medicine similar to morphine, codeine, and heroin. It targets the same places in the brain that opioids do. It relieves drug cravings without giving you the same high as other opioid drugs.

    Buprenorphine can cause side effects similar to other opioids and also can cause physical dependence.

    Why It Is Used

    Buprenorphine can help treat addiction to opioid drugs, including heroin and narcotic painkillers. It prevents or reduces withdrawal symptoms caused by quitting these drugs.

    How Well It Works

    Research has shown that buprenorphine is effective for treating opioid addiction.1

    Side Effects

    All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

    Here are some important things to think about:

    • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
    • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
    • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

    Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

    • Trouble breathing.
    • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
    • Signs of an overdose, including:

    Call your doctor if you have:

    • Hives.
    • A fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat.
    • Increased sweating.
    • Redness or flushing of the face.

    Common side effects of this medicine include:

    See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    What To Think About

    Do not take mood-altering drugs, narcotic painkillers, sedatives, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers while taking buprenorphine.

    In some cases, buprenorphine may be used as an alternative to methadone, which also is given to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine may have less severe side effects than methadone. Talk to your doctor about what might work best for you.

    Taking medicine

    Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

    There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

    Advice for women

    If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

    Checkups

    Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

    Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

    Citations

    1. Buprenorphine: An alternative to methadone (2003). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 45(W1150A): 13-15.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

    Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: 2/, 014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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