What is Buprenex&Reg;?

D. Jeffress

Buprenex® is a prescription narcotic medication used to manage chronic and acute pain. It is usually given as an injected solution in a hospital or clinic, but home injection kits are also available. The drug is an opiate derivative and it produces similar effects to other opiates such as morphine, heroin, and methadone. When Buprenex® use is carefully regulated, it is usually a highly effective form of pain management. It can become addictive, however, so doctors are careful when providing the drug to limit the risk of dependence or acute overdose.

Buprenex is a prescription narcotic medication that produces effects similar to heroin.
Buprenex is a prescription narcotic medication that produces effects similar to heroin.

Opiates like Buprenex® bind to specific receptor sites in the brain that control the release of endorphins. As endorphins are produced in high quantities and introduced into the bloodstream, they act on nerves to kill pain and bring about euphoric sensations. Patients who are given Buprenex® injections typically notice the effects within minutes.

When a doctor decides to use Buprenex® as a means of pain management, he or she first reviews a patient's medical history. Certain medications may interact adversely with the drug, so it is important for the doctor to study current drug regimens. In most cases, an initial dose of .03 ounces (1 milliliter) is injected into a vein in the patient's forearm. If the dose appears to be effective, a doctor can provide ongoing injections of the same amount every six hours. Patients who tolerate the drug well and are in good enough shape to leave the hospital may be equipped with home injection kits and instructions for self use.

The risk of negative side effects is relatively low when Buprenex® is taken as directed. The most common side effects include nausea, dizziness, mild headaches, and sweating. Some patients experience shallow breathing, an increase in blood pressure, blurry vision, and mental confusion. Less commonly, the drug can induce visual and mental hallucinations, tremors, and possibly lead to a coma. Allergic reactions are rare but may cause life-threatening airway constriction and arrhythmia.

The active chemical ingredient in Buprenex®, buprenorphine, is often used in the treatment opiate dependence and withdrawal. Buprenex® is not typically given to addicts, however, because it is extremely potent and may worsen addiction symptoms. It several times stronger than methadone and morphine, which makes it ideal for severe pain relief but detrimental for lessening physiological dependence of an opiate. A person who is interested in learning about addiction treatment options can research other buprenorphine derivatives, specifically Subutex® and Suboxone®.

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