Addiction Treatment

How Buprenorphine Blocks Opiates to Treat Addiction

Written By:

Becky Babb

How Buprenorphine Blocks Opiates to Treat Addiction

“Buprenorphine” is the generic name for the active ingredient in the pharmaceutical products, Subutex and Suboxone. Physicians and opiate addiction treatment counselors are increasingly relying upon Buprenorphine therapy over more traditional addiction therapies such as methadone to overcome and defeat heroin and other opiate addictions.

Buprenorphine for Opiate Addiction

Opioids create intense pleasurable sensations by causing a flood of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in an opioid user’s brain and central nervous system. The brain’s dopamine reward system is believed to be a pre-evolutionary vestige that triggered instinctive understandings of the differences between things that are good or bad. When an individual experiences a pleasurable sensation, including the sensations that are created when the person eats good food or engages in some sexual activity, dopamines are released in his or her brain to encourage that individual to continue that activity. Heroin and other opioid products cause a massive dopamine release and rewire a person’s brain not only to continue using heroin, but to constantly crave heroin for survival. When an addict’s brain is starved of heroin, he or she begins to experience severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine blocks the receptors in an addict’s brain that connect with dopamines, while simultaneously reducing the physical withdrawal symptoms that often drive an addict back to heroin use.

Buprenoprhine Treatment for Addiction

Unlike heroin and other opioids, buprenorphine use results in a lower level of euphoria and reduced physical dependence. Opiate addicts who successfully transition to buprenorphine have a lower potential to misuse the drug and are less likely to become addicted to it. Buprenorphine users will experience some withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug altogether, but those symptoms will be less severe than withdrawal and detox from heroin and opiates. Buprenorphine is not an answer or a solution to opiate addiction, but it is instead a tool that is used to reduce the cravings and physical effects of that addiction. Unlike methadone, which addicts receive through clinics and authorized dispensaries, buprenorphines can be prescribed and dispensed to a recovering addict, who can continue in recovery with this product while living at his or her home. Opiate addicts will continue to need psychotherapy and behavioral modification treatments to recover fully and permanently from their addictions. Addiction treatment counselors are optimistic that buprenorphines will become a standard treatment to suppress the worst symptoms of opioid withdrawal, to decrease cravings and to reduce use of illicit opioids, and ultimately to help recovering addicts stay with their rehabilitation programs.

Addiction Recovery Options

Addiction recovery counselors will determine if buprenorphine therapy is appropriate in each specific case of addiction. If it is appropriate, an addict will receive his first buprenorphine dose within 24 hours of his last opioid exposure. The dosages will be adjusted to match the recovering addict’s profile during his first week of therapy. That dosage will be stabilized over the succeeding month or two, and the recovering addict will then progress into a maintenance phase in which a regular low buprenorphine dose is given until the addict is ready to stop using this product altogether.

Buprenorphine therapy may or may not be appropriate or effective for every opiate addiction problem. If you have questions or would like more information regarding whether buprenorphine can help you to overcome an opiate problem, please call the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600. We provide support, encouragement, and therapy for men who may be struggling to overcome opiate and other addiction problems.

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