When considering the rise in opioid-related deaths, it’s not surprising to see renewed interest in medication supported recovery for opioid addiction treatment.
Evidence continues to demonstrate that recovery efforts that utilize medication supported recovery have shown positive results. One such medication is buprenorphine, which is prescribed for individuals in recovery for an opioid use disorder.
Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cites three ways buprenorphine can offer additional support in recovery:
- Decreasing the risk of relapse
- Reducing infectious disease transmission
- Preventing overdoses
Continue reading to learn more about buprenorphine and how this medication can help sustain recovery.
What does buprenorphine do?
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist that binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. Since it blocks these receptors for a prolonged period of time, buprenorphine reduces opioid cravings while the patient is still heavily dependent on their opioid of choice.
Buprenorphine is available in different compounds and formulations. Some of these formulations contain naloxone as a risk reduction measure since it can help deter buprenorphine misuse. Forms of buprenorphine and brand names include:
- Buprenorphine sublingual tablets (Subutex)
- Buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual films (Suboxone)
- Buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets (generic)
- Buprenorphine implants (Probuphine)
- Buprenorphine extended-release injection (Sublocade)
What is medication supported recovery?
For some individuals, a medication like buprenorphine can significantly help the recovery journey. In essence, the medication supported recovery (MSR) model helps to provide an extra layer of protection against relapse.
When someone undergoes MSR, a physician monitors their condition. The doctor will oversee the medication schedule and adjust the dosage as needed. MSR can be used for a specified period of time — such as for 3-12 months — or indefinitely, depending on each patient’s needs.
Over time, patients in medication supported recovery won’t feel the same desire to consume their substance of choice, since use no longer causes the same effect. This conditions the individual to stop craving the drug, lengthening periods of abstinence and enhancing the patient’s prospects for recovery success.
What are the risks of buprenorphine?
While this medication can be very useful for some people in recovery, there are some adverse effects to consider. This is why a careful screening is conducted before any patient is prescribed buprenorphine. Adverse reactions can include:
- Respiratory issues
- Dry mouth
- Memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased libido
- Urinary retention
Because a physician closely monitors the patient while on buprenorphine, these side effects are likely to be noted early on, and dosing can then be adjusted as necessary.
How to use buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is first used during the detox and withdrawal phase of recovery, once the individual has entered mild to moderate withdrawal. The timing is critical, as starting buprenorphine too early could result in an acute withdrawal event. The physician prescribes the form of buprenorphine that they feel is the appropriate fit for each individual’s unique recovery needs.
The successful outcome of buprenorphine-based MSR is dependent on implementing a multi-faceted continuing care plan. A comprehensive aftercare plan for opioid use disorder will include buprenorphine supported recovery, as well as ongoing outpatient therapy and participation in a supportive recovery community. By requiring these other continuing care efforts, the individual remains actively engaged in their ongoing recovery journey.
Buprenorphine has been shown to be an important recovery tool for individuals that are struggling with an opioid use disorder. If buprenorphine can help reduce relapses, it can definitely save lives.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.