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How Effective Is Buprenorphine in Heroin Treatment?

What is buprenorphine? Doctors use this medication to help people who develop addictions to powerful opioid street drugs or prescription opioid painkillers. Buprenorphine is increasingly used in the treatment of heroin addiction. Experts in the field consider it quite effective for this purpose.
what is buprenorphine

Buprenorphine Background

It may sound strange, but just like heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, buprenorphine is an opioid. However, while those extremely strong substances take full advantage of your body’s natural susceptibility to opioids, buprenorphine does not. Instead, it produces a much weaker effect. If you’ve never used an opioid substance, the medication will still produce the extreme pleasure that often motivates people to begin a pattern of abusive consumption. However, in someone used to heavy-duty opioids, buprenorphine will only produce enough of an effect to prevent the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Role in Opioid Addiction Treatment

In opioid addiction treatment, doctors take advantage of buprenorphine’s chemical properties in one of two ways. First, in a program aimed at complete abstinence, the medication helps patients achieve sobriety by preventing the unpleasant symptoms of opioid withdrawal that can lead to a relapse. In an opioid maintenance program, doctors can use buprenorphine as a controlled, less powerful and much safer replacement for stronger opioid substances of abuse.

Effectiveness in Heroin Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers buprenorphine to be one of the primary treatment options for people addicted to heroin. The medication has a couple of important advantages over another opioid-based medication, methadone. First, buprenorphine is a weaker form of opioid than methadone. This fact makes the medication generally safer to administer, and also makes it less likely to serve as a target of abuse by people in treatment. In addition, while only a relatively small amount of designated clinics can prescribe methadone, addicts seeking help can receive buprenorphine treatment from any doctor who holds the required governmental approval.

Buprenorphine is generally considered an effective medication for helping those with heroin addiction withdraw from the drug relatively safely, because it comes with relatively low risk and is available as a detox treatment in a wide variety of convenient treatment and rehab settings.



U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (Opioid Dependence)                                               

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Buprenorphine

National Institute on Drug Abuse: What are the treatments for heroin use disorder?

Posted on February 27th, 2017

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