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Medically Reviewed

How is Buprenorphine Used During Opioid Detox?

- 5 sections

Medically Reviewed: March 3, 2022

Medical Reviewer

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Overcoming opioid addiction isn’t easy. The first challenge you may face is the flu-like withdrawal symptoms that begin in the first hours of sobriety. The good news is you don’t have to endure opioid withdrawal on your own–a medical detox center like Charlotte Detox Center can help.

Medical detoxification is a process in which you detox from drugs and alcohol with the help of medications and medical supervision. One of the most widely used medications in opioid detox is buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is used during opioid detox to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings so you can successfully complete detox and move on to treatment as well as the rest of your recovery.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a medication that has been approved by the FDA to treat opioid withdrawal and dependence.[1] It belongs to a class of drugs called mixed opioid agonist-antagonist. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and partially activating them to reduce or eliminate opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Buprenorphine is most effective when used as part of a complete substance abuse treatment program. Treatment typically involves compliance monitoring, behavioral therapy, counseling, and lifestyle changes.

Although buprenorphine has opioid-like properties, it isn’t as addictive as other opioid replacement medications like methadone. It is also considered safer than many other alternatives. This is because buprenorphine has a ceiling effect for respiratory depression, so it stops producing depressive effects after a certain dose is taken, thereby reducing the risk for abuse and overdose.[2]

List of Buprenorphine Medications

There are three basic formulations of buprenorphine:

  1. Buprenorphine tablets (Subutex)
  2. Buprenorphine combination medications containing buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone, Cassipa)
  3. Extended-release buprenorphine injection (Sublocade)

The first two are used during detox and treatment, while the injection can only be used after you have been on a steady daily dose of buprenorphine for at least seven days.

What You Should Know Before Taking Buprenorphine for Opioid Detox

The most important thing to know about using buprenorphine to treat opioid withdrawal is its potential to cause severe precipitated withdrawal symptoms. This can occur if buprenorphine is taken while a full opioid agonist is still bound to the mu (opioid) receptors in the brain. In other words, taking buprenorphine too soon after taking your last dose of opioids can result in rapid-onset and severe withdrawal symptoms.[2]

The safest way to take buprenorphine is under the supervision of a medical professional. Be honest with your doctor about when the last time you used opioids was, what kind of opioid you used, and how much of it you consumed. He or she can gauge when it is safe to begin using the medication.

Generally, you can begin taking buprenorphine 12-24 hours after your last dose of opioids. You should be experiencing mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms before starting the medication.

Medicinal Use of Buprenorphine During Opioid Detox

Once you are in mild to moderate withdrawal, you may be able to start taking buprenorphine. While there are many buprenorphine-based medications, it is advisable to take a buprenorphine-only medication during the first two days of detox. After the first two days, you may transition to a combination medication like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone). After one week, if you choose, you may qualify for a once-monthly buprenorphine injection called Sublocade.

The dose you are prescribed may vary based on the severity of your addiction and withdrawal symptoms as well as your age and weight. It’s important to only take the medication as prescribed by your doctor.

While you are taking buprenorphine for opioid detox, nurses or doctors may regularly check your vitals and evaluate your symptoms. This is because their job is to keep you safe, comfortable, and free from detox complications.

Since buprenorphine works primarily on the mu-opioid receptors–the same ones that are affected by opioid misuse–the medication can successfully reduce the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.[3] It can also help alleviate drug cravings, making the detox process far more manageable.

Find an Opioid Detox Center in Charlotte, North Carolina Today

Buprenorphine is a safe and effective medication that can significantly improve your experience during opioid detox. Here at Charlotte Detox Center, we go above and beyond to make sure our patients are safe, comfortable, and content as they begin their recovery journey in detox. Our medical approach uses FDA-approved medications that can effectively reduce your withdrawal symptoms under constant supervision.

Don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about our drug detox programs and how we can help you overcome opioid addiction once and for all.