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How Can I Manage Buprenorphine Withdrawal?

Dan Harkins
Updated May 17, 2024
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Buprenorphine, like methadone, is an opium derivative used in many countries to counter the withdrawal symptoms of other illicit opiates, like heroin. Just like the drug from which buprenorphine attempts to wean the addict, this substitute comes with its own set of problems when the time comes to leave it behind for good. Buprenorphine withdrawal can be difficult, according to addiction specialists, but knowing what is coming and how best to counter these symptoms will help you cope.

Symptoms of buprenorphine withdrawal can start just hours after the drug supply is terminated. They can last anywhere from two to five weeks, depending on the intensity and duration of past use. Many physicians will scale back a buprenorphine dose over the course of a few months to alleviate discomfort, but some symptoms are inevitable. If an addict being treated with buprenorphine attempts to stop all at once, the effects reportedly have the potential for being just as severe as withdrawal from heroin. Conversely, a condition called precipitated withdrawal can happen if buprenorphine is administered before heroin withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest.

Some of the buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms are mental conditions. Increased anxiety, depression, lethargy and insomnia are commonly reported. Other problems are physical in nature: diarrhea, fever, sweat-soaked and clammy skin, and cramps. If the dose was kept at prescription levels, withdrawal symptoms could diminish in days; if dosages were illegal and over the recommended limits, symptoms could be intense and long-lasting.

The company Reckitt Benckiser markets buprenorphine under the name Suboxone® or Subutex®. It is widely reported to be equally effective in countering heroin withdrawal, but with less addictive qualities than methadone, which has been the main heroin replacement drug since its creation in the 1960s. Buprenorphine entered the market in 2002, after approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is available in pill, sublingual and intravenous forms as a prescription, though illicitly, it is considered a Schedule III drug, along with other commonly abused prescription drugs like steroids, codeine and a synthetic cannabis called Marinol®.

Leaving all opiates behind with tapering replacement therapy means accepting buprenorphine withdrawal as it comes and enduring it. Some doctors institute a mild anesthesia during detoxification, as well as non-opiate calming medication, which is reported to quell most buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms. Doctors also recommend rest and relaxation as well as group and individual therapy to best cope during detoxification.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins , Former Writer
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.

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Dan Harkins

Dan Harkins

Former Writer

Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
Learn more
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