How long do you take buprenorphine for?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment duration for patients taking buprenorphine. There are many factors involved in determining the length of treatment when administering buprenorphine. These can include:
- The condition being treated
- The age and general health of the patient
- The risk of opioid dependence
Based on these variables, a clinician will determine the proper dosage and length of treatment based on an individual’s specific needs.
When prescribed by a clinician for the treatment of opioid dependence, buprenorphine (often administered as a sublingual tablet to be dissolved under the tongue) is given over two phases of treatment, known as induction and maintenance.
- Induction is the first phase, which uses a larger dose of buprenorphine for several days (on average, two to four days) to focus on reducing and stabilizing any immediate withdrawal symptoms that the patient may be experiencing while weaning off an opioid.
- Once the patient has stabilized, they can begin the maintenance phase. This involves the continued administration of buprenorphine at a lower dosage, often taken in combination with naloxone, in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms and reduce overall dependency. This phase may be long-term, allowing the patient time to complete an addiction treatment program.
Additionally, following the maintenance phase, a patient should be slowly weaned off buprenorphine using a calculated dosage reduction rate over the course of several days to weeks in order to avoid further opioid-related withdrawal symptoms. This rate will be patient-dependent and can vary in both dosage strength and length of administration.
The injectable form of buprenorphine is most commonly prescribed for the management of moderate-to-severe pain.
- Administration of injectable buprenorphine can be intravenous or intramuscular.
- Both intravenous and intramuscular buprenorphine are typically given by a slow injection over two minutes up to every six hours as needed for pain.
As there is the opportunity for misuse of buprenorphine, as with any opioid, it is important for patients to strictly adhere to their prescribed dosing schedule.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prescribing information: Subutex (buprenorphine sublingual tablets) for sublingual administration CIII. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2018/020732s018lbl.pdf. [Accessed on January 17, 2021].
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prescribing information: Buprenex (buprenorphine hydrochloride) injection, for intravenous or intramuscular administration, CIII. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/018401s025lbl.pdf. [Accessed on January 17, 2021].
- Kumar R, Viswanath O, Saadabadi A. Buprenorphine. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). 2020 October. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459126/. [Accessed on January 17, 2021].
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