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Is Buprenex safe for humans?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on July 2, 2024.

Official answer


Buprenex (generic name: buprenorphine) is an FDA-approved medication and is typically safe for humans to use if appropriately prescribed and administered by a health care provider. However, use of Buprenex can be very dangerous or fatal if abused, combined with alcohol, other medicines that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing, or if given in doses that are too high.

Buprenex is a strong opioid (narcotic) medication used for the management of pain severe enough to require an opioid analgesic and for which alternate treatments are inadequate. Buprenex is considered a partial opioid agonist and was approved by the FDA in 1981. It is given as an intravenous (IV) or intramuscular (IM) injection and is classified as a Schedule III narcotic by the DEA.

Opiate receptors are found throughout the body and provide functions such as pain relief, sedation, respiratory depression (slowed or halted breathing), and physical dependence.

Buprenex works quickly and has effects that last about 6 hours. The injectable form can be used after surgery and for the relief of moderate-to-severe pain associated with conditions such as cancer, kidney stones, and nerve disorders. You would usually receive this medication in a clinic or hospital setting and would be monitored by a health care provider.

Buprenex injection is not used for opioid use disorder (opiate or narcotic dependence). Sublocade is the brand name of buprenorphine injection used to treat opioid addiction.

Buprenex contains a Boxed Warning, the most stringent prescription drug warning from the FDA, about the increased risk for:

  • addiction, abuse and misuse
  • life-threatening respiratory depression (serious or deadly breathing problems)
  • risk of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (narcotic withdrawal in a newborn)
  • profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma or death when opioids like Buprenex are used with other central nervous depressants, which include benzodiazepines and alcohol.

Severe breathing problems are more likely to occur in older or debilitated patients, or those with pre-existing breathing problems.

Buprenex has certain limitations of use, as well. Because of the risks of addiction and misuse with opioids such as Buprenex, it is only used when you cannot tolerate other pain medication or have not had adequate relief. These medicines include non-opioid medications (like NSAIDs) or combination opioids (for example: acetaminophen-hydrocodone).

Not everyone should receive Buprenex for pain.

  • Buprenex should not be used in patients with: significant respiratory depression (trouble breathing)
  • acute or severe bronchial asthma (unless you are being monitored in health care setting with adequate resuscitative equipment)
  • a known or suspected obstruction in the digestive tract (gastrointestinal obstruction), including paralytic ileus (intestinal blockage due to a problem with nerves and muscles in the intestine)
  • a severe allergic reaction to buprenorphine (for example, anaphylaxis) or any other ingredient in Buprenex.

Other brand names examples of single ingredient buprenorphine products approved to treat pain include:

  • Belbuca (buccal film)
  • Butrans (transdermal film patch)

Related questions

Other Safety Warnings with Buprenex

This is not a complete list of safety concerns with Buprenex. Like all opioids, Buprenex is associated with many safety warnings and side effects you should discuss with your doctor. Visit here to see a full list of contraindications, warnings, side effects, and drug interactions with Buprenex.

Always call your doctor for medical advice about Buprenex.

Bottom Line

  • Buprenex is an injectable pain medication approved by the FDA. It is usually administered in a hospital or clinic setting under the supervision of a health care provider.
  • It is given for pain severe enough to require an opioid analgesic and for which alternate treatments are inadequate.
  • Although Buprenex is an FDA-approved medication, it has serious warnings and side effects and can be fatal if abused, taken in too high or a dose, or combined with other medicines that can increase sedation or respiratory depression (slowed breathing).

This is not all the information you need to know about Buprenex for safe and effective use. Review the full Buprenex information here, and discuss this information with your doctor or other health care provider.


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