How Does the Buprenorphine Patch Work?The buprenorphine patch is applied to the skin and contains buprenorphine, an opioid narcotic medication. These patches continuously release buprenorphine in the same amount over a seven-day period.
Buprenorphine binds to a specific type of opioid receptor, called the opioid mu-receptor. Opioid mu-receptors are located throughout the body. While the main effects of buprenorphine occur in the central nervous system, this drug can produce effects anywhere opioid mu-receptors are found.
Some of these effects, such as pain relief, are desirable. Other effects are undesirable and cause the side effects associated with buprenorphine patches. These effects may include but are not limited to:
- Pain relief
- Changes in mood, including feelings of unease (dysphoria) or unusually pleasant feelings (euphoria)
- Cough suppression
- Slowed or shallow breathing
- Slowing of the digestive tract
- Physical dependence.
Interestingly, buprenorphine is a partial (not full) agonist of mu-receptors. This means that it binds to the receptors, but only partially activates them. This usually translates to less chance of abuse, although this is not always the case.
When and How to Use This MedicineSome general considerations to keep in mind when using buprenorphine patches include the following:
- This medication comes as a skin patch. Each patch is worn continuously for seven days. After seven days, a new patch is applied to a different skin site.
- Apply the patch to any intact, nonirritated flat skin surface, such as the upper arm, chest, back, or side. Hair at the skin site should be clipped, not shaved. The skin site may be cleansed beforehand with clear water. Allow the skin to completely dry before applying the patch.
- Do not use soaps, lotions, oils, or creams before applying buprenorphine patches.
- Do not cut buprenorphine patches, or use cut or damaged patches. Doing so may cause too much of the medication to be released from the patch, potentially leading to an overdose.
- You should avoid anything that heats the skin while using this medication, such as tanning beds, heating pads, electric blankets, hot tubs, saunas, hot baths, or sunbathing. Increases in body temperature can cause too much of the medication to be released into the body, potentially leading to an overdose.
- Do not cover buprenorphine patches with bandages or tape. If the patch will not stick, you may use first aid tape around the edges only, or use a special clear adhesive dressing. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have problems with the patch not sticking.
- If your patch falls off before seven days, dispose of it in a proper manner and apply a new patch to a different skin site. Do not try to reapply the old patch.
- Wait a minimum of three weeks before using the same application site again.
- This medication is a controlled substance because it can be abused. Proper storage and disposal are important to prevent theft. Keep unused patches in a safe place. Dispose of used patches by folding the sticky sides together and flushing them down the toilet or by throwing them away in the enclosed Patch Disposal Unit.
- For the medication to work properly, it must be used as prescribed. Do not increase your dose or suddenly stop using this product without your healthcare provider's approval.