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How Does Buprenorphine Work?

Buprenorphine binds to a specific type of opioid receptor, called the opioid mu receptor. Opioid mu receptors are located throughout the body. Interestingly, buprenorphine is a partial (not full) agonist of mu receptors. This means that it binds to the receptors but only partially activates them. While the main effects of buprenorphine occur in the central nervous system, this drug can produce effects anywhere opioid mu receptors are found.
Some of these effects, such as pain relief, are desirable. Others are undesirable and cause the side effects associated with buprenorphine use. These effects include but are not limited to:
  • Pain relief
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in mood, including feelings of unease (dysphoria) or unusually pleasant feelings (euphoria)
  • Cough suppression
  • Slowed or shallow breathing
  • Slowing of the digestive tract
  • Physical dependence.

Dosing Information

The buprenorphine dose your healthcare provider recommends will vary, depending on a number of factors, including:
  • The particular product you use
  • The reason you are taking buprenorphine
  • The type and dose of other opioids you have been taking
  • How you respond to the medication
  • Your weight (for children)
  • Other medications you take
  • Other medical conditions you may have.
As is always the case, do not adjust your dose unless your healthcare provider specifically tells you to do so.
(Click Buprenorphine Dosage for more information.)
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