Buprenorphine and other Addiction Medications


Although psychological treatment is the foundation of the Exodus Health program, medication can play an important supportive role. Buprenorphine is one of those medications that has significantly improved our ability to help patients recover from addiction to pain medications and heroin. It greatly reduces or entirely eliminates withdrawal symptoms. It also eliminates drug craving and leaves people feeling comfortable enough to return to a normal life without being distracted by drug cravings. The following information is intended to help patients understand the role that this medication can play in their recovery

What is buprenorphine and how does it work?

It is an “opioid” medication that has been used in Europe since the 1980ʼs for the treatment of addiction and was approved for that use in this country in 2003. It attaches to the same places in the brain that heroin and pain medications do. Because it only partially activates these sites, it does not make people high, although some people do report feeling a “buzz.” It also prevents people from getting high on other opioids by blocking the effect of these substances.

Can buprenorphine cause physical dependence?

Yes. If you suddenly stop taking it, you will probably experience withdrawal symptoms. Because it is long acting, this may take 2 days to begin. Therefore when you decide to get off of buprenorphine, you should reduce the dose gradually over a period of time and not discontinue it abruptly

How is buprenorphine taken?

To be most effective, it should be allowed to dissolve under the tongue. Try not to swallow until after it is dissolved.

How is buprenorphine different from methadone?

It is safer. Overdose is almost impossible. Sedation is less. It blocks the effect of pain pills and heroin at lower doses than methadone does. You can get prescriptions for it by “waivered” physicians in a traditional office setting.

What are possible side effects and what can I do about them?

Nausea: Spit out your saliva rather than swallowing it after buprenorphine has dissolved. Sleepiness: Take medication at bedtime. Consult with doctor about reducing dose. Constipation: Increase fiber in diet. Consult with doctor about reducing the dose.

How long should I stay on buprenorphine?

You can decide to get off buprenorphine at any time. We recommend that you remain on it for at least one year of stabilization because the danger of relapse in early recovery is very high.

Other Addiction Medications

Addiction Medication quick facts