What Is Buprenorphine Used For?
Healthcare providers prescribe buprenorphine to treat pain or opioid dependence. These are the drug's approved uses; however, buprenorphine is sometimes used "off-label" for the treatment of depression. Most forms of buprenorphine are approved for adults only, except for the injection, which can be used in children as young as two years old.
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Buprenorphine (Buprenex®, Butrans®, Subutex®, Suboxone®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of either pain or opioid dependence, depending on the particular medication. Specifically, Buprenex (the injectable form) and Butrans (the patch form) are approved for pain treatment. Subutex (the under-the-tongue tablets) and Suboxone (the under-the-tongue tablets and film combined with naloxone) are both approved for opioid dependence.
Buprenex is approved to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It is typically used in hospitals or other similar settings, since it is given by injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection) or by intravenous infusion (IV). For example, Buprenex might be used to treat pain after a surgery. In the "real world", this drug is most often used when other, more commonly used pain relievers (like morphine or fentanyl) are not tolerated or should not be used for other reasons.
Butrans is a prescription skin patch approved to treat moderate-to-severe chronic (long-lasting) pain. It should only be used to treat pain that requires continuous, "around-the-clock" treatment. Butrans is meant to be received on a regular schedule. It is not approved for "as needed" or short-term use.
It should also not be used to treat:
- Mild pain
- Acute pain (pain expected to last only a limited amount of time)
- Pain that can be controlled with occasional pain medication
- Pain from surgery or other medical or dental procedures.