One of the most prevalent drug problems throughout the United States is the abuse of prescription medications and opiate painkillers are high on the list. Since 2002 roughly twenty two million people have been using prescription narcotic pain relievers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Demerol for non-medical reasons.
Due to the misuse and abuse of prescription opiate painkillers, an enormous amount of people throughout this country have suffered serious consequences including dependence, addiction and overdose.
Treating opiate addiction like any other form of addiction is very complex but in October of 2002 the FDA approved a drug called buprenorphine to be used for treating opioid addiction which certified physicians are able to prescribe to their patients. Buprenorphine is effective for treating narcotic painkiller addiction and other forms of opioid dependence because the medication stops cravings and blocks symptoms of withdrawal.
One of the biggest reasons a person is unable to stop using narcotic pain pills or other opiates if they're addicted due to chronic use is because cravings and symptoms of withdrawal are so overwhelming and uncomfortable. Buprenorphine makes recovery much easier to achieve when a person is receiving help for their addiction.
Buprenorphine, often referred to as 'Bupe', is also an effective treatment for heroin addiction which is also increasing in abuse in many areas throughout the United States. Heroin is an extremely addictive drug derived from morphine and today can be obtained very easily in the U.S. Much of the heroin circulating today is inexpensive and high in potency which can lead to addiction quickly when frequently abused. Heroin has been linked to an enormous amount of accidental overdoses in many areas throughout the United States which sadly, are much too often fatal.
Use of buprenorphine for treating opioid addiction has greatly increased in the past several years according to SAMHSA. A hundred thousand patients were prescribed buprenorphine in 2005 by certified physicians and to over eight hundred thousand patients by the year 2010. The number of certified physicians prescribing buprenorphine to patients for opioid addiction has also increased, in 2005 there were 5,656 certified physicians and by 2010, there were 18,582 certified physicians prescribing buprenorphine to patients for opiate addiction.
Non-Medical Use of Buprenorphine
Unfortunately buprenorphine is also abused for nonmedical reasons because the medication is an opioid and can produce effects of euphoria when misused. There are two formulations of buprenorphine that were approved on October of 2002 for treating opioid addiction, Subutex is a formulation that contains just buprenorphine and the second formula contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Both formulas are classified as Schedule III narcotics under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
One of the more common ways buprenorphine is abused is by injecting the medication after crushing and liquefying the drug. According to an earlier report in 2006, addicts had said the effects of buprenorphine when injected were similar to heroin or morphine. Many people abuse buprenorphine and risk an accidental overdose if the dose is high or abused with other opiates at the same time.
Buprenorphine Overdose Symptoms
- Extreme drowsiness
- Clammy or cold skin
- Pinpoint pupils
- Slow heart rate
- Weakened pulse
- Shallow breathing (breathing could stop altogether)
Buprenorphine Withdrawal Syndrome
Buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms can be experienced due to long term abuse. Withdrawal syndrome could also be experienced in individuals receiving buprenorphine maintenance too. Symptoms experienced due to buprenorphine withdrawal are similar to other opiate withdrawal symptoms which are listed below.
- Dysphoria (feelings of unhappiness)
- Achy muscles
- Lacrimation (excessive tearing of the eyes)
- Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
- Mild fever
- Feelings of distress and irritability
Rise in ER Visits Associated with Buprenorphine Use
ER visits associated with nonmedical use of buprenorphine have sharply risen also. Emergency room visits related to buprenorphine have increased significantly according to SAMHSA. In the year 2005 there were 3,616 hospital emergency room visits linked to buprenorphine and in 2010, emergency rooms visits considerably increased to 30,135. In the year 2010 according to the SAMHSA bulletin 15,778 of the hospital emergency room visits involved non-medical use of buprenorphine.