Medical Definition of Buprenorphine

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

Buprenorphine: A prescription medication for people addicted to heroin or other opiates that acts by relieving the symptoms of opiate withdrawal such as agitation, nausea and insomnia. Buprenorphine is more weakly addictive and has a lower risk of overdose than methadone. The effects last for about three days.

Buprenorphine is sold under the brand name of Subutex and, in combination with naloxone, as Suboxone. Subutex is intended for use at the beginning of treatment while Suboxone is intended for the maintenance treatment of opiate addiction. (Naloxone was added to guard against intravenous abuse of buprenorphine by individuals physically dependent on opiates.)

The side effects of buprenorphine include cold or flu-like symptoms, headaches, sweating, sleeping difficulties, nausea, and mood swings. Buprenorphine can cause dangerously diminished breathing, especially when used in combination with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants.

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Reviewed on 12/21/2018