Buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Subutex, among others, is an opioid used to treat opioid addiction, acute pain, and chronic pain. It can be used under the tongue, by injection, as a skin patch, or as an implant. When used for opioid addiction it is recommended that a health care provider observe the person while they take the medication. For longer term treatment of addiction a combination formulation of buprenorphine/naloxone is usually recommended. Maximum pain relief is generally within an hour with effects up to 24 hours.
Side effects may include respiratory depression (decreased breathing), sleepiness, adrenal insufficiency, QT prolongation, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, and opioid addiction. Among those with a history of seizures, there is a risk of further seizures. Opioid withdrawal following stopping is generally mild. It is unclear if use during pregnancy is safe and use while breastfeeding is not recommended. Buprenorphine affects different types of opioid receptors in different ways. Depending on the type of receptor it may be an agonist, partial agonist, or antagonist.