Is Buprenorphine Safe for Long-term Use?
The chief of the addiction section of Oregon’s Health and Science University (OHSU) has some strong convictions about buprenorphine and whether it offers safe treatment. Dr. Todd Korthuis comes down firmly on the side of believing in its ability to stop heroin use and “prevent deaths from opioids.” To him, “Buprenorphine Safe” creates a phrase that makes sense. His concerns center around the increasing difficulty of prescribing it with opposition from Medicare insurance companies that prefer a less costly treatment.
Understanding the Drug Buprenorphine
Research shows that buprenorphine eases withdrawal symptoms and pain. It has a designation as only one of three medicines that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves for treating opioid use disorder. The findings come from a 2007-2018 study that analyzed prescription drug plan data from Medicare Part D. The growing use of pre-authorization requirements continuously limit the use of buprenorphine among patients on Medicare who may benefit from it.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that buprenorphine helps people reduce or quit their use of heroin and other opiates such as pain relievers. Some of its pharmacological qualities help lower the potential for misuse, and it increases safety in cases of overdose. With the ability to diminish withdrawal symptoms and cravings, it can also produce euphoria as well as respiratory depression but to a lesser degree than heroin and methadone. It’s “ceiling effect” prevents misuse and dependency as the doses eventually level off in the effect that they produce. SAMHSA confirms the safety of the drug when patients use it as directed.
Considering the Effects
While medical authorities confirm the safety of using buprenorphine as an effective treatment for opiate addiction, it can produce side effects that resemble those of opioids. Nausea and vomiting, constipation, muscle aches and cramps may occur as highly unpleasant reactions, and fever may accompany them or appear independently. Cravings that users experience with full drugs can happen with buprenorphine as well. An inability to sleep can lead to distress and irritability as a common reaction that the body produces in response to the drug.
Evaluating the Safety of Buprenorphine
The effects of buprenorphine can last long enough to allow patients the liberty to not use every day. However, the potential for misuse can represent a significant danger for someone who has no opioid dependency. With the addition of naloxone to buprenorphine, the likelihood of “diversion and misuse” of the combined product decreases. Patients need to inform their physician about any liver-related health issues as these can worsen with use.
Anyone who uses buprenorphine needs to follow precautions regarding mixing medications without a doctor’s approval. Danger exists when taking illegal drugs, sedatives, tranquilizers or any drug that affects breathing. SAMHSA guidelines indicate that mixing other medications in large amounts with buprenorphine can lead to overdose or death. To make buprenorphine safe to use over the long term, patients need to observe recommended precautions.
Choosing a Safe Treatment Alternative
The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 allows qualified physicians in the U.S. to provide buprenorphine to patients with opioid dependency in an office as well as in a community hospital, health department or correctional facility. However, patients who prefer to treat addiction through rehab can choose to use it instead.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), an organization that advances addiction science, agrees that no one form of treatment works for everyone. However, it also confirms that a simple approach cannot succeed. As a chronic disease, it requires a commitment to treatment that can produce results. Most patients need long-term or repeated care to stop using and return to fully productive lives. Inconsistent attempts to stop using for a few days with a doctor’s prescription cannot provide the cure that most people need when they decide to recover. Many programs start with detoxification under medical supervision as the first treatment stage.
Finding a Rehab Program
Rehab centers offer varying approaches to treatment, and you can find one that suits your preferences. If you prefer a highly structured environment and a confrontational style, you can find many that offer it. Others can help you examine damaging beliefs and self-concepts that may create destructive behavior patterns.
Springboard Recovery can help you adopt harmonious and constructive ways to interact with others. The goal of our rehab center revolves around helping you achieve peace of mind and a sense of physical well-being that you may not have experienced for a while. Activities that we offer help you to learn how to live productively and in the present. We offer a compassionate environment of acceptance where judgment does not exist.
When you reach the end of your own strength and are ready to seek professional help, call Springboard Recovery today where our professional staff can help you find your way again.