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Benefits to Utilizing Buprenorphine

At Fora Health, we recognize how medicine can be a useful tool for those who are withdrawing from substances and looking for recovery. Fora Health champions individualized recovery plans that allow patients to decide how they would like to approach their recovery. As a way to ensure patients have treatment options, we offer Buprenorphine, which can be instrumental to recovery.

Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid that treats opioid use disorder. Our Outpatient Medical Director, Dr. Eowyn Rieke, is very passionate about its uses, effects and overall benefits. She provides a deeper look into what it is, what it does, and, most importantly, how it can make a difference in someone’s recovery journey.

Key Benefits to Utilizing Buprenorphine

  • People are eight times less likely to die from an opioid overdose while on Buprenorphine. That’s rare in medicine.
  • It helps reduce cravings.
  • Buprenorphine greatly reduces the risk of overdose by blocking the signal of other opioids taken after (protection from an overdose is not guaranteed, though).
  • People receive less pleasure from other opioids, with Buprenorphine occupying those receptors and may be less likely to use because of this.

How it works

A substance like fentanyl is a perfect fit for your opioid receptors and fires off signals that say pleasure. Buprenorphine matches well to the receptors but not as well as fentanyl. It’s a partial agonist – a way of saying it partially bonds. You get a mixed fit and a partial signal. It will still signal, and that’s important, but not nearly as strong compared to fentanyl.

The key is it reduces withdrawal symptoms. It also helps reduce cravings for opioids because it is partially stimulating the receptor. Most importantly, Buprenorphine greatly reduces the risk of overdose by blocking the signal of other opioids taken after (but it’s not 100%). Moreover, people receive less pleasure from other opioids, with Buprenorphine occupying those receptors and may be less likely to use because of this.

The timing of the drug is important to note. If a person takes buprenorphine after an opioid like fentanyl, it will cause precipitated withdrawal. So, if you are using fentanyl and all your receptors are occupied, and then you take Buprenorphine, it’ll take the place of fentanyl. Then it’ll slow the signal to your brain. You go from a full signal to a perfect match and replace it with a partial fit, giving a weaker signal. Your body interprets that as an intense withdrawal that comes with side effects.

How we administer Buprenorphine to leverage its strengths

Before making any changes, Fora medical staff talk with patients about the options for transitioning from fentanyl to buprenorphine. Some patients want to make it quick and can tolerate some withdrawal symptom. Other patients would prefer a slower process with less likelihood of withdrawal. Some want to be in a controlled setting where we can give them strong medication to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Based on the patient’s preferences, we design a transition plan to maximize their success. Sometimes this is in the community, sometimes in our withdrawal management.

In some circles buprenorphine is controversial. At Fora we know it is a medication that addresses a medical condition. People utilizing Buprenorphine can do their jobs, be present in their lives and are significantly protected should they return to use. That’s why we champion it.

If you have questions about Buprenorphine uses, benefits and or side effects, you can contact us at (503) 535-1151.

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