How It Works

Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv and or Sublocade) works by attaching to opioid receptor sites to block the effects of opioids. At the same time, it slightly activates these sites to prevent cravings and withdrawal. Buprenorphine allows the opioid receptors in the brain to rest, so people can begin to respond to the everyday pleasures they used to enjoy.

How Does Buprenorphine Work

Facts About Buprenorphine

  • It does not cause euphoria or alteration of mental function in those who have been using opioids.
  • Unlike other opioids (including methadone), buprenorphine by itself causes little respiratory depression and has a ceiling effect such that overdose generally will not stop an adult from breathing. This means that the overdose risk is extremely low, especially when it is not taken with other sedating medications.
  • Studies show that only 10% of patients are drug free one month after detox alone, while 50-80% of patients are no longer using opioids after 6-12 months of treatment with buprenorphine.
  • Typically you must be in mild to moderate withdrawal to begin this medicine. Many patients are able to start treatment at home, with instructions from their doctor.

Important Information About Buprenorphine Use

  • Do not take other medications without first consulting your doctor.
  • Life-threatening breathing problems, an overdose and even death can happen if you take benzodiazepines, sedatives, tranquilizers, antidepressants, or alcohol while using buprenorphine. Ask your healthcare provider what you should do if you are taking one of these.
  • Ensure that a physician monitors any liver-related health issues that you may have.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • Prevent children and pets from accidental ingestion by storing it out of reach.
  • Dispose of unused buprenorphine safely. Talk to your MAT practitioner for guidance, or visit our Safe Medication Storage and Disposal page for locations of where to take your medicine.
  • Keep buprenorphine in a secure place out of sight and reach of children, and in a location not accessible by others, including visitors to the home. Accidental use by a child is a medical emergency and can result in death. If a child accidently uses buprenorphine, get emergency help right away.
  • Do not share buprenorphine with anyone, even if they have similar symptoms or suffer from the same condition. Keep your prescription in a safe place to protect it from theft. Never give your medication to anyone else; it can cause death or serious harm. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.
  • Do not stop taking buprenorphine without talking to your healthcare provider. Because your body has become used to this medicine, you could become sick with uncomfortable withdrawal signs and symptoms. This withdrawal syndrome does not indicate that you are addicted to the medication as addiction is a more complicated psychological, social, spiritual, and physical process that is much more complex.

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Medication-Assisted Treatment Options