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What Is Buprenorphine Patch Used For?

The buprenorphine patch can help relieve moderate-to-severe pain. This medicated skin patch is only used for treating chronic (long-lasting) pain; it is not meant to be used for treating short-term pain. Only adults can use buprenorphine patches, although older adults may be more sensitive to the side effects of this medication and may need a lower dosage.

An Overview of Uses for the Buprenorphine Patch

The buprenorphine patch (Butrans®) is a prescription skin patch approved to treat persistent, moderate-to-severe chronic (long-lasting) pain. It should only be used to treat pain that requires continuous, around-the-clock treatment.
 
Buprenorphine patches are meant to be used on a regular schedule. They are not approved for "as needed" or short-term use. These patches should also not be used to treat mild pain, acute pain (pain expected to last only a limited amount of time), pain that can be controlled with occasional pain medication, or pain from surgery or other medical or dental procedures.
 
Unlike many other strong prescription pain medications, the buprenorphine patch is only a Schedule III controlled substance. This means that it is less likely to be abused, compared to drugs like morphine or oxycodone. It also means that your healthcare provider may phone or fax your prescription to a pharmacy and that you may be receive refills on the prescription.
 

How Does This Medication Work?

The buprenorphine patch is applied to the skin and contains buprenorphine, an opioid narcotic medication. These patches continuously release the same amount of the drug 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, buprenorphine 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 using buprenorphine patches. Effects may include but are not limited to:
 
  • Pain relief
  • Drowsiness
  • 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.
 
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Buprenorphine Patch Drug Information

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