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To find the first part in the series, “Introduction to Heroin Abuse and Addiction.”, Click here.  

Heroin Treatment Options: Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is a particularly attractive treatment for heroin and other opiate addiction because, compared with other medications, such as methadone, it causes weaker opiate effects and is less likely to cause overdose problems. Buprenorphine also produces a lower level of physical dependence, so patients who discontinue the medication generally have fewer withdrawal symptoms than do those who stop taking methadone. Because of these advantages, Buprenorphine may be appropriate for use in a wider variety of treatment settings than the currently available medications. Several other medications with potential for treating heroin overdose or opiate addiction are currently under investigation by NIDA.

In addition to methadone and Buprenorphine, other drugs aimed at reducing the severity of the withdrawal symptoms can be prescribed. Clonidine is of some benefit but its use is limited due to side effects of sedation and hypotension. Lofexidine, a centrally acting alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, was launched in 1992 specifically for symptomatic relief in patients undergoing opiate withdrawal. Naloxone and naltrexone are medications that also block the effects of morphine, heroin, and other opiates. As antagonists, they are especially useful as antidotes. Naltrexone has long-lasting effects, ranging from 1 to 3 days, depending on the dose. Naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects of heroin and is useful in treating some highly motivated individuals. Naltrexone has also been found to be successful in preventing relapse by former opiate addicts released from prison on probation.


A New Medication for Treating Opiate Addiction

  • First medication developed to treat opiate addiction in the privacy of a physician’s office.
  • Binds to same receptors as morphine, but does not produce the same effects.
  • Offers a valuable tool for physicians in treating the nearly 900,000 chronic heroin users in the U.S.
  • As of March 2004, 3,951 U.S. physicians were eligible to prescribe buprenorphine to patients.

The Story of Discovery

  • First synthesized as an analgesic in England, 1969.
  • Recognized as a potential opiate addiction treatment by NIDA researchers in the 1970s.
  • NIDA created Medications Development Division to focus on developing drug treatments for addiction, 1990.
  • NIDA formed an agreement with the original developer to bring buprenorphine to market in the U.S., 1994.
  • Buprenorphine tablets approved by the FDA, 2002.

Click here to view the next part in the series, “Heroin Treatment Options: Behavioral Therapy” Click here to return to the first part in the series, “Introduction to Heroin Abuse and Addiction.”

The above information is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Report Series – “Heroin Abuse and Addiction”. The report is also available at NIDA’s website at

Pat Moore Foundation’s drug & alcohol detox and alcohol & drug addiction treatment programs are licensed and certified by The State of California. We provide non-medical and medically managed detoxification (using Suboxone, Subutex, and Buprenorphine when appropriate) and primary residential treatment. Our individual homes are on a unique co-ed campus where we offer gender specific treatment. We are located in Costa Mesa, in Orange County, Southern California, close to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, and only an hour’s drive from Los Angeles and San Diego. To speak with a counselor, please call us 24-hours at (888) 426-6086 or if you’d like us to contact you, send a confidential message online by filling out our online form.

Note: All medical services are administered by medical professionals, which are facilitated and operated solely under the jurisdiction of a separate medical corporation.