Buprenorphine is an opioid used in the treatment of opioid addiction. It is a partial agonist at the opioid receptors. Its side effects are much milder than those of methadone. It does not cause significant withdrawal symptoms when used as an analgesic.
As a partial agonist, buprenorphine causes less intense effects than full opioid agonists such as morphine and heroin. As such, it is considered safer and has a lower potential for abuse. It is also less likely to cause sleepiness, constipation, and other side effects when using full opioid agonists such as morphine or heroin.
Buprenorphine is available in a variety of forms. The injectable form is commonly administered via the subcutaneous route. The oral form is also available in tablets and buccal tablets. Additionally, buprenorphine can be intravenously administered. Oral administration has less efficacy than the subcutaneous route and may cause more side effects such as nausea and vomiting.
Like other opioids, buprenorphine can also be administered via an intranasal route or as a nasal spray. It is typically administered using an inhaler, which delivers it directly to the lungs. However, buprenorphine must be administered with another opioid with a longer duration of action (such as methadone) if used this way. This method of administration is most commonly used by people who are addicted to opioids but have not been able to get help through their doctor or other medical professionals because they are considered “high risk.”
The Side Effects of Buprenorphine
Side effects caused by buprenorphine are much milder than those caused by full opioid agonists such as morphine or heroin. Buprenorphine is generally well-tolerated by the patient when taken as prescribed. However, some individuals may experience more severe or frequent side effects from the medication, depending on their physiology and medication history. Examples of these side effects include:
Like other opioids, buprenorphine may cause constipation. This is typically a minor side effect. It can be alleviated by taking the medication at the same time each day and drinking plenty of water.
2. Dry Mouth
If taken with a high dose of another opioid (such as heroin), buprenorphine may produce a dry mouth.
3. Diarrhea and Nausea
Some people may experience diarrhea or nausea when they first start taking buprenorphine, particularly if they are not used to opiates or are taking other medications that can cause these side effects. These symptoms should subside within a few days after starting treatment.
Buprenorphine may cause drowsiness and sedation. This is particularly true when higher doses are used.
Some people may experience anxiety, dysphoria, and depression when taking buprenorphine. Dysphoria should subside within a few days of treatment.
6. Muscle Aches and Insomnia
Some patients may experience muscle aches and insomnia when taking buprenorphine. This side effect is sometimes severe if the individual has taken opioids for a more extended period or has been prescribed higher doses of buprenorphine than they are used to taking.
One of the most common side effects of buprenorphine is sedation. This occurs due to its pharmacological effects on the brain’s opioid receptors and can occur at lower doses than sedation caused by other opioids. Sedation typically occurs two hours after dosing and can last up to 12 hours before decreasing in intensity. It is usually mild, but some individuals may experience more sedation symptoms similar to those experienced during alcohol intoxication. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating and being alert
- Lack of confidence or motivation
- Hallucinations (especially if combined with other medications)
- Anxiety with restlessness
- Loss of motor control and muscle weakness
Buprenorphine is not a controlled substance in the United States, so individuals are not required to have a prescription to obtain it. However, to be prescribed buprenorphine, an individual must have a prescription from their doctor and be diagnosed with opioid dependence.
As a result of its pharmacological actions on opioid receptors, high doses may produce respiratory depression (a decrease in breathing rate and depth) and sedation, leading to respiratory arrest if left untreated. Due to these risks, it should only be used by individuals who are already receiving treatment for opioid dependence and are under careful supervision by a physician. Call us at 833-610-1174.