Last updated: 04/30/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
When you have an addiction to an opiate, like heroin, your life is damaged in multiple ways. These can include the fracturing of relationships, difficulty at work, and problems with your physical and mental health. For these reasons and many others, it’s important that you seek out treatment from a professional drug addiction treatment center. Yes, it can be a little scary to do that when you aren’t sure what treatment entails, but the following should give you some more information and make you feel more confident about reaching out for help.
Most people are familiar with the use of methadone in treating heroin detox and curbing cravings long-term. But the use of buprenorphine, the opiate treatment most recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is understood considerably less. As the use of buprenorphine is growing, it is important that you understand what it is and how it is used.
You can speak with an expert who can answer all of your questions in clear, easy to understand language. Plus, you can receive recommendations to a heroin addiction treatment program that is perfect for your situation. There’s no reason not to call now.
What Is Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is different than a treatment like methadone because it is what is known as a partial opioid agonist.
When doses remain low, it performs like any other opioid would in alleviating pain. However, when the dosage is made larger, it prevents opioid receptors from being stimulated, preventing a user from attempting to get high with other opiates. Further, because buprenorphine attaches to those receptors, it decreases symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. These elements all combine to help patients remain in treatment and continue to engage in it.
Buprenorphine also has a ceiling effect, which means that the drug reaches a plateau at which its effects no longer increase. This means that a user can’t up their dosage and use it to get high.
How Is Buprenorphine Used?
When you enter treatment, you will likely be experiencing the first of your withdrawal symptoms because you have stopped using heroin. A physician at the treatment facility will evaluate your situation and prescribe and administer buprenorphine when it is appropriate. You won’t be given the medication until withdrawal has begun because buprenorphine can actually begin the symptoms if it is taken too early.
You will be given a dosage of the drug and the goal will be to find the amount that stops the withdrawal symptoms. Rehabs aim to end them within the initial four to six hours. You will receive your medication at the same time each day to keep the amount in your system steady. You may only receive buprenorphine during the detoxification stage, but some treatment programs have patients continue to use it long-term as part of medication-assisted treatment. Buprenorphine is a “long-lasting agent,” which means patients who take it for a long period may not need to take it every single day.
Why Not Just Take Methadone?
Methadone has a long history as the drug of choice in heroin addiction treatment, and that’s for good reason. Methadone has a history of success that is thoroughly backed up by scientific research. However, treatment centers have begun using buprenorphine more commonly for a few reasons.
Firstly, some patients choose to abuse methadone and that can lead to overdose. However, the ceiling effect reduces the chances of a patient increasing their dosage too high, making chance of an overdose extremely low.
Secondly, methadone can only be dispensed at a licensed clinic. Buprenorphine can actually be prescribed by certain doctors. It is the first medication eligible to be prescribed by certified physicians through the Drug Addiction Treatment Act. That means patients who will continue to use it long-term needn’t go to a clinic daily and that is much easier for you to manage.