Frequently Asked Questions - Buprenorphine

How does Buprenorphine benefit me?

A number of studies with patients have shown that treatment with buprenorphine, the main ingredient in Subxone, Zubsolv, and Bunavail, along with counseling, helps patients stay with their treatment and reduce their opioid use by suppressing withdrawal symptoms and decreasing cravings.

Buprenorphine offers a way to treat opioid dependence--in a doctor's office--with privacy, confidentiality, and safety.  Treatment with the film or tablets may conveniently fit into a patient's daily routine and may allow more time for work, family, and other activities.

Why is counseling an important part of treatment?

Buprenorphine and counseling work together to provide the best results.  While Buprenorphine may address physical symptoms, only counseling can address the behavioral aspects of opioid dependence.

Does Buprenorphine just substitute one dependence for another?

Using medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence is much like using medication for other chronic illnesses such as asthma or heart disease.  It is meant to help you stay healthy and successfully engaged in comprehensive treatment that includes counseling and other services that address your medical and psychological needs.

Medicine can be an important component for managing both the short and long term effects of opioid dependence.  You and the doctor can discuss the timing and appropriateness of tapering doses until medication is no longer required--but the timing varies widely from case to case.  The withdrawal symptoms of buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Buprenorphine, are milder than those experienced with a full opioid agonist and can be managed under medical supervision.

Why is it so important to take Buprenorphine as directed?

Abuse or misuse of your medications while on Buprenorphine can cause very adverse reactions and even death.

Buprenorphine can cause serious life-threatening respiratory depression and death, particularly when taken by the intravenous (IV) route in combination with benzodiazepines or other central nervous system (CNS) depressants (i.e., sedatives, tranquilizers, or alcohol).  It is extremely dangerous to self-administer non-prescribed benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants while taking Buprenorphine.  Dose reduction of CNS depressants, Buprenorphine, or both when both are being taken should be considered. 

What other important information I should know about Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine can cause serious and life-threatening breathing problems.  You need to seek emergency medical attention immediately if you feel faint, dizzy, or confused or your breathing gets much slower than is normal for you.  These can be signs of overdose or other serious problems.

Important information about Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine can cause death from overdose, especially if it is injected with a tranquilizer. Use this medicine exactly as directed by your doctor. 

Buprenorphine can cause drug dependence. This means that withdrawal symptoms may occur if you stop using this medication too quickly. Withdrawal symptoms may also occur at the start of treatment due to dependence on another drug. Buprenorphine is not for occasional ("as needed") use. Do not stop taking Buprenorphine without first talking to your doctor. Your doctor may want to gradually reduce the dose to avoid or minimize withdrawal symptoms. 

In an emergency, have family members tell emergency room staff that you are taking Buprenorphine and that you are dependent on opioids. 

Use caution when driving, operating machinery, or performing other hazardous activities. Buprenorphine may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired thinking. If you experience drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired thinking, avoid these activities. Avoid alcohol while taking this medicine. Alcohol may dangerously increase drowsiness and dizziness caused by the medication. 

Buprenorphine may dangerously increase the effects of other drugs that cause drowsiness, including antidepressants, alcohol, antihistamines, sedatives (used to treat insomnia), other pain relievers, anxiety medicines, and muscle relaxants. Tell your doctor about all medicines that you are taking, and do not take any other prescription or over-the-counter medicine, including herbal products, without first talking to your doctor. 

Before taking Buprenorphine

Do not take Buprenorphine if:

  1. The medication was not prescribed for you.
  2. You are allergic to buprenorphine, naloxone, or any components of the tablets.

Before taking Buprenorphine, tell your doctor if you have:

  • lung problems or difficulty breathing;
  • a head injury or brain problem;
  • liver problems;
  • kidney problems;
  • gallbladder problems;
  • adrenal gland problems, such as Addison's disease;
  • low thyroid (hypothyroidism);
  • enlarged prostate gland;
  • problems urinating;
  • a curve in the spine that affects breathing;
  • severe mental problems, hallucinations or alcoholism. 

You may not be able to take Buprenorphine, or you may require a dosage adjustment or special monitoring during treatment if you have any of the conditions listed above. 

Buprenorphine is in the FDA pregnancy category C. This means that it is not known whether Buprenorphine will be harmful to an unborn baby. Use of this medication during pregnancy may cause withdrawal symptoms in a newborn baby. Do not take Buprenorphine if you are pregnant or could become pregnant during treatment. Buprenorphine and naloxone pass into breast milk and may be harmful to a nursing baby. Do not take this medication if you are breast-feeding a baby. 

Please call our office at 610-436-1584 for more information regarding Buprenorphine in West Chester, PA.