What Are the Different Types of Buprenorphine Treatment?

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  • Written By: Valerie Clark
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2019
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Buprenorphine treatment is primarily administered as a sublingual tablet, injection or transdermal patch. The tablet and injectable formulations are used for detoxification and long-term replacement therapy for opioid-addicted patients. The transdermal patch is indicated for chronic pain sufferers. Additional forms of buprenorphine treatment can be administered via a sublingual film or implant. These types of buprenorphine treatment are for treating opioid dependency.

The tablet and injectable formulations are the most common forms of buprenorphine treatment. The drugs are administered in a physician’s office under careful supervision. The company responsible for the sublingual tablet version of buprenorphine has also developed a sublingual film for drug administration. The film is interchangeable with the tablet, although many patients prefer the taste of the film over the tablet. The film dissolves quickly and attaches to the mucosa of the tongue, thereby preventing patients from swallowing or spitting out the medication.

The sublingual tablet and film contain a second active ingredient, naloxone. Naloxone is an antagonist that ultimately deters the misuse or abuse of the tablets as an injection via intravenous administration. Naloxone is not enough to reverse the effects of opioid addiction without buprenorphine. Based on the results of clinical trials in humans, the sublingual tablet and film are recommended for opioid-dependent patients displaying mild withdrawal symptoms.


The implantable formulation of buprenorphine uses a sustained-release mechanism to treat opioid dependency. One benefit of administering the medication through a polymer-matrix implant, as opposed to the other routes of administration, is a reduced risk of patient non-compliance with dosing instructions. It also prevents the medicine from being diverted for non-medical use.

The transdermal patch containing buprenorphine treatment is a viable alternative to non-opioid medications used to treat chronic pain. The patch dispenses medication slowly over the course of several days, up to 96 hours. This type of buprenorphine treatment is ideal for cancer patients suffering moderate to severe pain and non-cancer patients who experience a similar level of pain. Musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain can be treated with the patch form of buprenorphine.

New types of buprenorphine treatment have emerged in an effort to improve the long-term therapeutic qualities of the treatment for opioid dependency and chronic pain. As for chronic pain treatment, an anesthesia formulation administered directly to the spine has been used in some Eastern countries, such as India. The reported patient benefit is up to 10 pain-free hours following spinal administration of buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid and an alternative to methadone. Given the pharmacological action of buprenorphine, its analgesic effect is the result of partial agonist activity at the receptor sites that creates a blockade effect unlike methadone. Basically, buprenorphine binds to receptors in the brain stronger than other opioids do, which inhibits them from binding when buprenorphine is present.


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