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Buprenorphine is the primary active medication in Suboxone, Subutex, Buprenex, Butrans, Zubsolv, Bunavail, and other opioid blockers. It is an opioid, but unlike heroin or methadone, it is only a partial opioid agonist.
A partial opioid agonist is prescribed to reduce cravings for a full opioid agonist (like heroin, oxycodone, or methadone). Partial opioid agonists have several important features. They induce less euphoria in the body and thus less physical dependence, which lowers their potential for misuse. With Buprenorphine, there is a ceiling on its opioid effect, which means that taking more, won’t result in getting high. Another key feature of partial opioid agonists like Buprenorphine is that they have a mild withdrawal profile when compared to full opioid agonists like Methadone and Heroin.
Receiving the correct dose of Buprenorphine is critical to its effectiveness, and this is why working with a qualified professional is so critical. When used at appropriate dosages, Buprenorphine will suppress withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings for opioids.
The real beauty of this drug is that it also blocks the effects of other opioids, so patients being treated with Buprenorphine will not only have their cravings for illicit drugs reduced, but if they happen to succumb to temptation, their opiate of choice will no longer cause the feelings of euphoria that likely caused the addiction in the first place.
Chemically, Buprenorphine is noted as C29H41NO4. It is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine, an alkaloid of the poppy plant, specifically “Papaver somniferum”. Buprenorphine works by actually competing with the full opioid agonists in a patient’s bloodstream. It binds with the opiate receptors in the patient’s brain, thus blocking those receptors for use by any other opiates. In effect, patients can no longer get high, because all their opiate receptors are full of Buprenorphine.