The Benefits of Buprenorphine Treatment

By Jill Gonzalez

Buprenorphine is an opioid that is used as a treatment medication for opiate addiction. It is the first medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for opioid detoxification and maintenance that physicians can freely dispense to their patients.

This treatment does not require patients to enroll in a particular program, nor does it require them to spend time at a residential treatment facility for substance abuse in order to obtain the medication.

How it Works

One of the ways buprenorphine works is by blocking the effects of other opiates that a person might take when they are going through treatment for opiate addiction. Essentially, buprenorphine operates at the same receptors in the brain where opiates such as OxyContin and heroin initiate their physiological and psychological effects. Even though it mimics the same effects that people might experience when taking illegal or prescription opioids, it does not provide them with the same feelings of euphoria or relaxation.

Buprenorphine prevents withdrawal symptoms in patients and also produces less physical dependence and stimulation than traditional opiates.

Benefits:

  • A very mild detoxification and withdrawal process.
  • A maintenance treatment that helps provide emotional stability.
  • A lower risk associated with this drug than there is with methadone.
  • Patients do not have to enter a methadone clinic to receive this drug.
  • It is safer than prescription opiates, which means that overdosing is unlikely.
  • It is long-lasting once patients have entered the maintenance portion of their treatment.
  • There are reduced health risks associated with the use of this drug, especially those related to skin and vein problems.

Treatment:

In most cases, patients take a sublingual (under the tongue) buprenorphine tablet once every two or three days. Once a patient has reached the maintenance stage of treatment, it is usually recommended that counseling be started, whether it is in the form of support groups or individual therapy with a psychologist.

The reason this is recommended is because patients who are undergoing any type of substance abuse treatment need counseling to help them reacclimate to their lives. Though many people do not see the need for counseling in conjunction with the actual drug treatment process, it is very important for addicted individuals to talk to a professional while they are going through treatment.

It is generally recommended that people wait to start therapy until they have entered the maintenance phase of treatment so that they focus on treating their addiction first. Trying to incorporate therapy into an initial drug treatment program might be too much for many people to handle.

Once a patient has completed the entire treatment program and successfully maintained their drug-free status for a specified period of time, they will be ready to stop using. It is not a drug that must be taken indefinitely.
In withdrawing from buprenorphine, there are some withdrawal symptoms that patients must deal with. The withdrawal, however, is not nearly as bad as the withdrawal from methadone or other opiates.

Why It Is Preferred over Methadone

In most cases, patients choose buprenorphine over methadone treatment clinics simply because of the convenience that it provides to them. With this treatment, patients do not have to make daily trips to a clinic or doctor’s office to obtain their medication. And since it may only need to be administered once every two or three days, patients do not have to worry about taking a pill each day.

More residential and outpatient treatment centers are now using this as part of a complete rehabilitation program that also includes counseling and group therapy services. The inclusion of counseling and group therapy to the standard drug treatment program is an essential component of any good substance abuse treatment program. These psychoanalytical sessions help patients receive a complete course of treatment that is better able to help them reenter society once they have become free of their addictions.