Opioid Detox Drug Increasingly Being Used for Chronic Pain Management
As the U.S. opioid crisis continues to worsen, a higher number of doctors are avoiding prescribing opioids for fear of triggering an overdose or dependence in their patients. But a medication commonly used in opioid detox treatments called buprenorphine is now being used by more doctors for the treatment of chronic pain, since the drug carries a far lower risk for dependence and addiction.
Buprenorphine as a Pain Management Solution
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist-antagonist, which means the drug binds to receptors that can reduce pain, but does not bind to receptors that produce a euphoric high — lowering the risk for physical dependence and psychological addiction. Buprenorphine is long-acting, and can usually be taken only once per day or every other day. A recent study showed that most formulations of buprenorphine are effective at treating chronic pain — most specifically the transdermal patch version worn on the skin.
Researchers say buprenorphine has a long list of benefits when used to treat chronic pain, including a ceiling effect for respiratory depression, less immunosuppression compared to other opioids, and ease of use among older adults due to its long half-life. However, using buprenorphine to treat chronic pain is not an evidence-based practice in the U.S. The CDC does say buprenorphine can be used as an opioid alternative for chronic pain management, but primary care physicians are required to receive eight hours of training before they can prescribe the drug in an outpatient setting,
Risks of Using Buprenorphine for Chronic Pain
When examined in studies for the treatment of chronic pain, buprenorphine has been found to produce no serious adverse side effects — indicating the drug is safe to use for pain management. While buprenorphine may not be as dangerous as most other opioids, the drug may offer some negative side effects that can interfere with treatment for some individuals.
Possible negative side effects of buprenorphine:
- Blurred vision
- Mouth numbness
- Mild dizziness
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Tongue pain
- Problems with concentration
Buprenorphine can also be fatal when mixed with alcohol or benzodiazepines — the latter of which slow down the central nervous system to reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and produce sedation.
Using Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Use Disorder
Buprenorphine is one of three FDA-approved medications commonly used to treat opioid dependence. Buprenorphine reduces opioid cravings and eliminates opioid withdrawal symptoms so those with opioid use disorder can recover comfortably and fully from addiction. Between 40% and 60% of all addiction patients end up relapsing, but studies show that nearly 50% of opioid patients who use buprenorphine to overcome addiction are able to stay clean for at least 12 weeks after starting treatment.
Buprenorphine offers a ceiling effect that prevents an overdose — meaning those who use higher doses with the intention of getting high or overdosing will not experience respiratory depression and other overdose symptoms. Buprenorphine can be used for days, months, or years, or as long as needed until a person is no longer dependent on opioids. The drug is commonly used as part of medication-assisted treatment, and in medical detox, rapid detox, and other detox treatments to help patients overcome opioid dependence.
If you are suffering from opioid use disorder, don’t continue to suffer in silence without getting help. Opioid detox centers can use buprenorphine and other treatments to help you overcome opioid dependence with few complications and adverse side effects. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to speak with an addiction specialist about nearby opioid detox centers ready to help you achieve improved health and lifelong sobriety.