Buprenorphine Treatment For Chronic Pain

What Is Buprenorphine?

The class of drugs that Buprenorphine belongs to is called agonist-antagonist opioids. Buprenorphine has been used in many medication-assisted addiction treatment programs across the United States for opioid therapy and opioid dependency purposes.

Of course, it is essential to be cautious when considering taking any drug. The various effects that buprenorphine can have on the body can vary depending on the individual. Some of the factors that determine this typically include:

  • Whether buprenorphine will be taken with any other drugs
  • The amount of the medication that the patient will be taking
  • The size of the patient
  • Past medical history of the patient
  • Potential opioid tolerance the patient has possibly built up
  • The patient’s weight

At Tres Vistas Recovery

At Tres Vistas Recovery in San Juan Capistrano, our addiction specialists have seen how the effects of buprenorphine (implementing the ceiling effect) have been proven to reduce the mild to severe withdrawal symptoms associated with an addiction to opioids, as well as weaken the craving intensity that patients often experience during treatment.

Treatment involving Buprenorphine has a higher rate of success when it is used as one piece of an extensive and comprehensive treatment plan. These plans get to the root causes of the pain while addressing the mind, body, and social environment the patient has been experiencing.

Some examples of details that are commonly associated with these treatment plans may include:

  • Medications, such as buprenorphine
  • Individual and group counseling sessions where family and close friends are often encouraged to participate in
  • Alternative therapies designed to help the patients develop new skills as well as a healthy and reliable support system

Can Buprenorphine Treat Chronic Pain?

First and foremost, it is best to understand that all necessary information is gathered before the starting point or altering of any opioid therapy being used to treat an individual for managing their chronic pain. Both the benefits and the risks need to be carefully considered based on each patient’s unique needs and preferences.

Ongoing pain that continually persists for up to six months or more is considered by medical specialists to be characterized as chronic pain. Chronic pain continues to be among the most common reasons that adults in the United States seek help through the medical industry.

Five treatment approaches are considered to be fundamental to managing the treatment of chronic pain. The treatment approaches include:

  1. Medications (opioids like buprenorphine, and non-opioids)
  2. Behavioral Health Approaches
  3. Complimentary and
  4. Integrative Health
  5. Interventional Procedures
  6. Restorative Therapies

It is estimated that approximately fifty million American adults experience a form of chronic pain in their lives. Also, an estimated nineteen million American adults report experiencing types of high-impact chronic pain, which regularly limits aspects of the sufferer’s life activities and work responsibilities.

Chronic pain has been linked to being the first result and cause of many disorders throughout the country, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even suicide. Finding a way to achieve the desired relief of the pain is, therefore, crucial for the improvement of the patient’s quality of life when administering treatment options for their chronic pain complications.

Buprenorphine is an option that has proven to be more than suitable to be used in multiple populations of patients. Buprenorphine is a reliable medication resource that can be used by individuals suffering from:

  • Chronic pain
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Dual diagnosis (the combination of pain and other drug or mental health disorder)

Is Buprenorphine Use Common?

Buprenorphine formulations of pain medicine are also used for withdrawal symptoms and long-term pain relief for chronic pain patients. Since being approved in 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration, doses of buprenorphine have helped many patients receiving primary care for pain maintenance or substance abuse by health care professionals.

Buprenorphine medications have comparable side-effects to those of prescribed opioids because of the chemical similarities between the two. The drug is nearly identical to the property of thebaine, which is one of the primary ingredients used to create opium. 

Other types of drugs that are available in a prescription form, such as oxymorphone and oxycodone, are also examples of drug substances that have been derived from thebaine. Several medications contain buprenorphine. The more common forms include:


Subutex is known as the brand name for a specific medication that contained buprenorphine and usually comes in a sublingual buprenorphine form where the tablet dissolves under the tongue. This drug was intended for individuals who were entering the initial stages of their addiction treatment. Generic alternatives to this drug are still available.


Suboxone contains the chemical combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. This drug is typically used by individuals during the preservation and maintenance term of the opioid addiction program process. 


Bunavail typically is prescribed in a buccal film that the patient would place inside their cheek until it dissolves. Testing around this drug has confirmed that a bunavail film has a greater buprenorphine bioavailability than suboxone. This drug can be used in the beginning stages or maintenance stages of treatment.


Probuphine is an implant that releases buprenorphine slowly over up to six months. This drug is typically placed surgically into the upper part of the arm under the patient’s skin. Probuphine is significantly beneficial to those patients who forget to take their medications or find it challenging to be on a schedule.


Zubsolv is similar to suboxone in almost every way except for one. The unique ability to release an equal amount of buprenorphine as Suboxone, even when administered a smaller dose.  

Patients who are enduring through a maintenance-type therapy while using a drug such as methadone must receive their treatment through a methadone clinic that has previously been federally approved to receive the methadone medication.

Buprenorphine is widely becoming more popular because of the accessibility compared to many alternatives. Not only is buprenorphine less addictive than methadone, but also doctors and other medical professionals who have received the appropriate training and certifications can prescribe the drug in outpatient treatment settings.

Common Side-Effects of Buprenorphine

Side-effects and especially withdrawal symptoms that are caused by opioids have the potential of being very dangerous and even in some cases, life-threatening. Some of the regularly seen side-effects include:

  • Terrible headaches
  • Stomach pains
  • Numbness in the mouth
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Tongue pain
  • Difficulty sleeping

More severe side-effects are indeed possible and, if experienced, require immediate medical attention. A few of these symptoms include:

  • Mouth swelling
  • Tongue swelling

It is also of the utmost importance to understand that mixing buprenorphine with other drugs like benzodiazepines or others can be especially lethal to the user.

Essential Takeaways

Side-effects and especially withdrawal symptoms that are caused by opioids have the potential of being very dangerous and even in some cases, life-threatening. Some of the regularly seen side-effects include:

  1. Buprenorphine is a drug in the opioid family typically used to treat opioid use disorder. This drug has also become a popular treatment option for individuals experiencing mild to severe, even chronic pain. Thought to be because of the drug’s complexity and negative portrayal of the methods it is being used, Buprenorphine will likely remain a resource for chronic pain patients that is unfortunately underutilized.
  2. There have been several significant advantages medical professionals have been able to have breakthrough discoveries. Analysis has shown that the use of Buprenorphine instead of other prescription opioids that are typically used for chronic pain, improves the levels of safety and tolerability. There is also a higher chance for the patient not to experience many of the harmful negative side-effects.