Buprenorphine - Uses - Dosages - Side Effects - Precautions

Buprenorphine: Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What is buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a potent prescription medicine that treats moderate to severe pain that is not responding to alternative treatments. It also treats opioid addiction (narcotics such as morphine and heroin) in patients showing withdrawal symptoms. It belongs to a class of drugs known as partial opioid analgesics. 

Buprenorphine works by changing the way the brain and nervous system react to pain. It is available in three forms:

  • Skin patches for chronic pain
  • Oral tablets
  • Injections (only provided in hospitals)

Buprenorphine is habit-forming. You must use this medicine only as per a doctor’s advice.

What are the uses of buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine helps relieve moderate-to-severe pain that has stopped responding to other pain medications. Doctors prescribe it to:

  • Cancer patients suffering from intolerable pain
  • Patients who have undergone surgery¬†
  • Sports injuries that have resulted in chronic pain
  • Opioid addiction patients

Usually, a doctor will start with a lower dose and gradually increase it, depending on the effectiveness of the medicine and the patient’s condition. Buprenorphine is not meant for mild or occasional surgical pain or in children below 18 years of age.

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What are the side effects of buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine can cause mild side effects such as weakness, vomiting, drowsiness, headaches, sudden blood pressure drop, indigestion, or redness at the application site. Inform your doctor if these conditions do not subside.

It may also trigger complex conditions like

  • Weakened heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Troubled breathing
  • Unexplained muscle stiffness
  • Tooth or gum pain
  • Sudden weight loss

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of these symptoms.


Frequently Asked Questions about Buprenorphine

1. Is buprenorphine a painkiller?

Buprenorphine is a potent pain killer. It works by acting on specific brain receptors. Since it is an opioid analgesic, doctors recommend it only when your body has stopped reacting to other pain relief methods. You must use buprenorphine patches or tablets only on the recommendation of a healthcare practitioner. Never use it for mild pain that will disappear in a few days.

2. How well does buprenorphine work on chronic pain?

Buprenorphine is ideal for chronic pain. Several medical studies have revealed that this drug has a beneficial effect in reducing pain intensity when used appropriately. Doctors recommend it for cancer patients, post-operative pain management, and serious injuries. However, it is possible to become addicted to buprenorphine if used long-term without consultation.

3. When can I take buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is available as a skin patch, injection, or sublingual tablet (dissolves in the mouth). Apply a buprenorphine skin patch as per the recommendation of a doctor. As a sublingual tablet, place it under your tongue and allow it to dissolve. Don't chew or crush it. Never use buprenorphine for long periods of time and take/apply this medicine as directed by your doctor.

4. Does buprenorphine make you sleepy?

Feeling sleepy is one of the most common side effects of buprenorphine. Others include indigestion, vomiting, drowsiness, lightheadedness, or constipation. However, because all of them are minor side effects, they are not worrisome. It is advisable to speak with a healthcare practitioner if these symptoms persist.

5. Does caffeine affect buprenorphine?

Yes, several studies have revealed that caffeine affects buprenorphine. If you have caffeine in any form (such as coffee, tea, sodas, or energy drinks) while consuming this medication, it may alter the efficacy of buprenorphine. Thus, it is advisable to seek your doctor's advice before continuing to consume caffeine.

6. Who should not take buprenorphine?

You should not consume buprenorphine if you are:

  • Below 18 years of age
  • Allergic to buprenorphine or any other opioid
  • A heavy drinker
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Having liver or kidney problems
  • Suffering from a head injury or having a history of seizures seizures
  • Suffering from irregular heart rate
  • Prone to low blood pressure

7. Can buprenorphine cause liver damage?

While some patients have experienced reduced liver functioning, there is no scientific evidence that proves the role of buprenorphine in liver damage. Clinical trials conducted worldwide reveal that this drug is suitable as the first line of alternative treatment for chronic pain and opioid addiction. It is advisable to seek the opinion of a medical practitioner.

8. Does buprenorphine help with chronic pain?

Buprenorphine is ideal for chronic pain. It works by binding to the body's opioid receptors. These receptors control the feeling of pain and emotions in humans. It can relieve chronic pain over a certain period. As a highly potent medicine, doctors recommend it to cancer patients, post-surgical patients, and those suffering from severe injuries if they can tolerate opioids.

9. How long does the effect of buprenorphine last?

After administering buprenorphine as a transdermal patch, sublingual tablet, or injection, it activates the brain receptors within forty minutes to three and a half hours, as per studies. The effect can last for up to three days at a stretch. You need to take this medication exactly as per a doctor's prescription without changing the dosage or duration.

10. When is it safe to take buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a potent opioid drug. Since long-term use of buprenorphine could lead to addiction, it is important to take this medicine only on your doctor's prescription. Buprenorphine should not be combined with any other narcotic or pain-relieving medicine. If you are pregnant, addicted to alcohol, or have a liver or heart condition, consult your doctor before taking this medicine. You can have all your drug-related questions answered by our team of experts at Yashoda Hospitals today.

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Disclaimer: The information provided herein is accurate, updated and complete as per the best practices of the Company. Please note that this information should not be treated as a replacement for physical medical consultation or advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy and the completeness of the information so provided. The absence of any information and/or warning to any drug shall not be considered and assumed as an implied assurance of the Company. We do not take any responsibility for the consequences arising out of the aforementioned information and strongly recommend you for a physical consultation in case of any queries or doubts.