From the SAMSHA website:
"Buprenorphine is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help people reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates, such as pain relievers like morphine.
Approved for clinical use in October 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), buprenorphine represents the latest advance in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medications such as buprenorphine, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of opioid dependency. When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine is safe and effective.
Unlike methadone treatment, which must be performed in a highly structured clinic, buprenorphine is the first medication to treat opioid dependency that is permitted to be prescribed or dispensed in physician offices, significantly increasing treatment access.
As with all medications used in MAT, buprenorphine is prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs.
Buprenorphine offers several benefits to those with opioid dependency and to others for whom treatment in a methadone clinic is not preferred or is less convenient. The FDA has approved the following buprenorphine products:
Bunavail (buprenorphine and naloxone) buccal film
Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) film
Zubsolv (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets
Buprenorphine-containing transmucosal products for opioid dependency
Buprenorphine has unique pharmacological properties that help:
Lower the potential for misuse
Diminish the effects of physical dependency to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings
Increase safety in cases of overdose
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that, like opioids, it produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are weaker than those of full drugs such as heroin and methadone.
Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate doses they level off, even with further dose increases. This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of misuse, dependency, and side effects. Also, because of buprenorphine’s long-acting agent, many patients may not have to take it every day.
Buprenorphine’s side effects are similar to those of opioids and can include:
Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
Muscle aches and cramps
Inability to sleep
Distress and irritability