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Drug Information - Subutex

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What Is Subutex?

Buprenorphine, sold under the trade name Subutex, is a long-acting opiate primarily used to treat narcotic (opioid) dependence. It is most commonly sold as a pill that dissolves under the tongue. Its main purpose is to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring in an individual, by stimulating the opiate receptors in the brain. Subutex has a greater attraction to the opiate receptors than other drugs such as heroin and methadone, which reduces or removes the desire to take such drugs.

Subutex binds so tightly to the opiate receptors, that taking heroin or methadone will have little or no effect. This drug is generally used in narcotic drug treatment programs, and prescribed in varying doses. The effects of subutex are less pronounced than those of other opiates, giving the individual the feeling of being somewhat "normal" once more.

Suboxone is a variant of subutex, containing an additional ingredient called naloxone. It is the form generally given to patients. Its effects are the same as Subutex.

Subutex Addiction


Side Effects

Subutex (buprenorphine) can cause a drug dependence. If the use of subutex is suddenly stopped, the individual may experience withdrawal symptoms and/or the desire to relapse and consume the addictive drug once more. Subutex is usually administered in daily doses ranging from 12mg to 16mg per day.

Subutex is not for occasional use. It is to be used as a continuous treatment method and may become dangerous if usage is stopped too quickly.

When mixed with other drugs (antidepressants, alcohol, sleeping medicine, etc.), subutex may enhance their effects and cause serious health hazards. Subutex can cause death from overdose if injected with a tranquilizer. Do not take any other medicine that is not approved by a health professional while on subutex.

Other side effects include:

- Drowsiness
- Dizziness
- Weakness
- Constipation
- Headache
- Nausea/Vomiting
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Mental changes
- Mood changes (depression)
- Stomach / Abdominal pain
- Liver problems
- Dark urine
- Yellowing eyes
- Skin changes
- Vision changes
- Death (from overdose)

Subutex Dependence

Subutex received a less restrictive classification than other opiates. It is also less expensive, and becoming increasingly easier to obtain on the black market. Theses factors are contributing to amplify the number of drug addictions to subutex.

The worldwide community is already beginning to feel the repercussions of subutex, as related in the International Herald Tribune:

"Consumption of buprenorphine nearly tripled globally from 2000 to 2004, according to the UN's International Narcotics Control Board, increasing to 1.7 billion DDD, or defined daily doses, a World Health Organization statistical measure of drug consumption.

"In some countries, such as Finland," the board's 2005 report said, "buprenorphine has become the most important illicitly used substance for opiate addicts; in some illicit markets, it has almost totally replaced heroin."

Subutex Abuse


The fact that buprenorphine costs less than heroin and is more accessible has hastened the development of illegal markets in various countries. Buprenorphine manufactured in India, for example, is smuggled into Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as Bangladesh, where it is used by 90 percent of the country's intravenous drug users, according to a UN Drug and Crime report last year.

A 2004 report from the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center lists "lucrative" black markets for Subutex in Britain, Germany and New Zealand.

Source: NIDA

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