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Available by prescription only, buprenorphine is a drug used to treat pain or opioid dependence. It comes in many forms, including an injection, a patch, a tablet, and a film that is dissolved under the tongue. This medication is thought to work by binding to a specific type of opioid receptor. Although generally well tolerated, side effects may include nausea, headache, and sedation.

What Is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine (Buprenex®, Butrans®, Subutex®, Suboxone®) is a prescription opioid medication. It comes in several different forms and is used for a variety of different purposes. Available buprenorphine products include the following:
  • Buprenex (buprenorphine injection) -- given by injection into a muscle or by IV, used to treat moderate-to-severe pain
  • Butrans (buprenorphine patch) -- used as a once-weekly patch to treat moderate-to-severe chronic (long-lasting) pain
  • Subutex (sublingual buprenorphine) -- taken as a once-daily tablet dissolved under the tongue to treat opioid dependence
  • Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) -- taken as a once-daily tablet or film dissolved under the tongue to treat opioid dependence.
Buprenorphine is a Schedule III "controlled substance," which means there are strict laws and regulations controlling its use. Schedule III medications are considered to have less potential for abuse, compared to Schedule II medications like morphine or oxycodone.
(Click What Is Buprenorphine Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)
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