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What is Subutex&Reg;?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2020
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Subutex® is also known by the generic name buprenorphine, and it is medication used most often to treat some of the withdrawal symptoms of addiction to opioids or in some cases to manage conditions like chronic pain. Buprenorphine is used for long or short periods, especially in drug addiction treatment to help end withdrawal. It is largely effective in this process because it binds to opioid receptors in a way that prevents other medications from resulting in a high. This is a little complex and there are people who abuse this medicine due to a partial high it can cause, but in many cases it helps people overcome drug addiction, though it might ultimately need tapering to avoid withdrawal from it.

In inpatient settings where people are detoxing from drug addiction, Subutex® might be delivered orally or by injection. Generally, people would use oral pills once they leave a detox center, or there are some skin patch forms of Subutex® available in a few countries. The medicine is long acting and when people take this drug can vary. Some people use it every day and others use it only every couple of days. Taking the recommended dosage and not taking more is extremely important. Overdose of this medicine can be very toxic, and there may be danger in pairing the medication with any other drugs that can cause breathing suppression, since this may result in a cumulative effect that is life threatening.

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On that note, there are a number of medications that do not interact well with Subutex®. These include many antidepressants, sedatives, mood disorder or anti-convulsant drugs, some drugs for HIV, common antifungals and antibiotics, certain antihistamines, and rifampin. Given the extensive list of potential negative drug interactions, patients should discuss with a physician all drugs they take, whether over the counter or prescribed, prior to beginning Subutex®.

While the medicine can have benefits, it may also have serious effects, affecting a small proportion of users. People can have severe allergies, which might show up as swollen face, lips, or tongue, hives and wheezing or inability to breathe. Other medically serious signs include passing stools that are the color of clay, which might suggest jaundice, or evidence of jaundice such as yellowed mucus membranes, especially around the eyes or in the whites of the eyes. Patients should also immediately report black stools, vomiting blood, difficulty breathing or very slow breathing, and any sense of confusion, severe mood changes, or light-headedness.

Most people will not have serious side effects from Subutex® but they could experience more minor ones. Among these are greater perspiration, chronic constipation, changes in mood, and difficulty sleeping. Of these, constipation is most common, and it might be relieved to a degree by eating a higher fiber diet or use of fiber supplements. People should report any ongoing symptoms that are not improving, as doctors may have suggestions on how to address these.

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