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What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a prescription opioid used to treat opiate addiction, and prescribed under its brand name, Subutex or Suboxone, among others. This drug is an opioid partial antagonist, meaning that it produces an effect similar to narcotic opioids without getting the user high. Buprenorphine essentially tricks the brain into thinking that addictive chemical substances like heroin are being introduced into the bloodstream; it does this by binding to certain receptors within the brain. Some might take excessive amounts of buprenorphine in attempts to get high – this will not work for several reasons. The reasons are as follows:

  • Buprenorphine has a much lower potential for abuse than addictive chemical substances like heroin and prescription painkillers.

  • This prescription medication affects the way opiates interact with the brain and body by putting a ceiling on the effects of opiates. This means that no matter how much of an addictive substance an individual takes while on buprenorphine, he or she will not experience a high past a certain point.

  • It is much harder to become physically dependent on buprenorphine, and those who take this medication in excessive amounts will not experience the side effects they would experience when taking an addictive opiate like heroin, such as euphoria or central nervous system repression.

  • Those who take this medication will experience less intense symptoms of withdrawal upon ceased use.

When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine will result in the following:

  • Reduced withdrawal symptoms, including physical symptoms like muscle cramping, stomach issues, profuse sweating, and sleep-related issues such as insomnia.

  • Decreased opiate cravings. When an individual is undergoing heroin withdrawal, buprenorphine may be used to prevent relapse that would otherwise result from unmanageable and intense psychological cravings.

  • A reduced propensity for illicit opiate abuse, usually based on a reduction of cravings.

  • Increased propensity to stay engaged and active in addiction treatment.

Taking Opiates While on Buprenorphine

Some individuals may attempt to take opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers while they are actively taking buprenorphine or a similar opioid antagonist. They may do so thinking that the prescription medication will enhance the effects of the opiate they are ingesting. The drug is taken sublingually (meaning it is placed under the tongue and dissolved), so an individual may assume that taking another opiate via a different method of consumption (such as intravenous injection) will lead to a more intense high.

This is not true – as previously mentioned, buprenorphine reduces the effects of other opiates. If the two are taken in conjunction, an overdose is possible, seeing as the individual will take the addictive opiate and greater amounts in an attempt to combat the lack of a high. It is extremely dangerous to take this medication other than as prescribed or to take it in conjunction with an opioid narcotic.

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