MEDICATION OPTIONS

How Buprenorphine Works

Buprenorphine has unique pharmacological properties that help:

  • Lower the potential for misuse

  • Diminish the effects of physical dependency to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings

  • Increase safety in cases of overdose

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that, like opioids, it produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression at low to moderate doses. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are weaker than full opioid agonists such as heroin and methadone.

Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate doses they level off, even with further dose increases. This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of misuse, dependency, and side effects. Also, because of buprenorphine’s long-acting agent, many patients may not have to take it every day.

Buprenorphine Safety

People should use the following precautions when taking buprenorphine:

  • Do not take other medications without first consulting your doctor.

  • Do not use illegal drugs, drink alcohol, or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs that slow breathing. Mixing large amounts of other medications with buprenorphine can lead to overdose or death.

  • Do ensure that a physician monitors any liver-related health issues that you may have.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women and Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine may be prescribed to women who are pregnant and have an opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine and methadone are considered the treatments of choice for OUD in pregnant and breastfeeding women.