effects chemistry

How Does Buprenorphine Block Opiates?

Many people who struggle with addiction and chronic pain take Buprenorphine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put Buprenorphine on the market as a treatment for opiate addiction. Learn more about Buprenorphine, why people use the drug and how it blocks opiates.

Why Use Buprenorphine

The two primary reasons people use Buprenorphine include chronic pain and a medication for treatment of mild to moderate opiate or methadone addiction. The body is prevented from going into withdrawal while preventing other opiates from binding to receptor sites. People with addiction can feel less cravings or desire to use. Another benefit is that no matter how much an opiate is taken, a high will not occur. Taking opiates while on Buprenorphine is a very bad idea and make a person very sick.

How it Works

When a person is addicted to substances like opiates, the opiates bind to receptors in the brain. Strong opiates cause receptors to be dulled to effects. This makes the need higher and greater for more opiates to get the same effect. If the effect is not achieved the person taking the drug grows uncomfortable as cravings increase. Withdrawal is the experience of not having enough drug to produce an effect and, in its absence, the body tries to create balance and rid the body of existing toxins. Like many opiate blockers, Buprenorphine binds to opiate receptor sites in the brain. Though it is in competition for receptor sites with other opiates, a stronger attraction to the receptors occurs. The receptors are more likely to bind to Buprenorphine even if a stronger opiate is present. Buprenorphine like methadone has a mild opiate effect. The effect is not enough to create a high like a regular opiate but is enough to stop cravings and prevent withdrawal.

Side Effects

The most noted side effects of Buprenorphine are similar to methadone and other opiates. The side effects fall into two categories: physical and psychological symptoms. The side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Pupil dilation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild euphoria
  • Craving
  • Memory issues
  • General distress

When combined with other medication, such as Suboxone or Subutex, other side effects may occur. Buprenorphine is safe to use and overdose is unlikely. It is important to note once Buprenorphine is taken, an individual should not use alcohol or other drugs. A dangerous reaction involving respiratory distress may occur. Opiates do not work while taking Buprenorphine. If a person uses Buprenorphine and needs opiate painkillers as a result of surgery or an accident, things may get worse before getting better. Doctors and emergency personnel must know whether ran individual is taking Buprenorphine prior to administration of other drugs.


The Villa provides support for individuals with addictions of all kinds. If you are struggling to quit drugs or alcohol, call us to help you find a pathway to recovery.