Buprenorphine is an opiate medication that is used to aid in recovery from addiction and dependence. It has multiple advantages over other treatment medications such as methadone.
Patients who take buprenorphine feel normal, not high. When properly dosed, buprenorphine causes minimal or no sedation, allowing the patient to function and work normally, while preventing the symptoms of dependence. This allows patients to pursue other life positive goals and reinforce positive behaviors. Buprenorphine helps reduce or eliminate cravings for opiates without causing a "high".
The effects of buprenorphine plateau and hit a ceiling effect at higher doses, making it a safer medication to take. This allows using it in an office-based setting rather than a more supervised inpatient setting. Buprenorphine has a very long half life making dosing a simply daily routine.
Buprenorphine binds strongly to the opiate receptors in the brain, more strongly than almost any other opiate medication. As a result it blocks the effects of other opiates the patient may abuse. This helps block the reward feedback loop that reinforces the problem in the first place and thereby reduces the motivation to abuse opiates.
Buprenorphine comes in several formulations, including a pill, a thin film that is applied to the inside of the cheek, or a thin film that is applied under the tongue. Almost all formulations contain naloxone to prevent abuse. At ClearPDX we do not recommend pure buprenorphine formulations unless the patient is clearly allergic to naloxone or they are pregnant.