Butrans Patches Addiction and Abuse

With the growing problem of opioid addiction in the UK and opioid epidemic in the US, a pressing issue is how to help people overcome addiction to illicit substances without developing a dependence on maintenance medication. BuTrans is an established medication for opioid addiction, which explains why it’s recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organization.

It works by reducing the craving for drugs and treating general symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Various studies have shown medicated-assisted treatment cuts mortality rates among addicts by more than half.

Sadly, the reality is that BuTrans is both a medication and substance of abuse, helping some recovering addicts to stay clean and dragging others down the vicious cycle of addiction. It’s now a lucrative venture for all who benefit. From manufacturers, suppliers, doctors, drug dealers and patients, the medication has somehow undermined the purpose of an innovation meant to be of benefit. According to the US National Library of Medicine, BuTrans patches can be habit-forming, which means there is a potential for substance abuse and developing substance use disorder.

What are BuTrans?

A type of Buprenorphine, BuTrans is a partial opiate agonist that eases discomfort associated with opioid withdrawal. Researchers at Reckitt & Colman spent 10 years trying to synthesize an opioid with more complex compounds than morphine that could shed undesirable effects and retain desired actions.

There are many forms of buprenorphine, including the BuTrans Patch. It is effective during medical detox and withdrawal, but like methadone is used long-term for medication management. Buprenorphine can be taken under the tongue or via a patch, which delivers the drug through your skin for seven days.

It works just like Suboxone by duplicating the effects of opioids in the brain without resulting in addiction. The difference is in the mode of consumption; BuTrans is a transdermal patch, while Suboxone is a dissolvable tablet.

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The Different Forms of BuTrans

BuTrans is only available in patches, but buprenorphine is available in different forms including:

Belbuca: The first FDA-approved buccal formulation that is delivered by dissolving a film placed on the inner lining of the cheek for treating chronic pain. Doses available include 75 mcg, 150 mcg and up to 900 mcg. Compared to BuTrans, it offers a wider range of dosage but requires more frequent dosing.

Bupranex: Released in the US in 1985 as an injectable formulation, Bupranex is intended for intramuscular and intravenous administration.

Suboxone: A combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, the medication is used for induction and maintenance therapy. The film should be placed entirely under the tongue until it dissolves. Swallowing reduces bioavailability, so the tablet should be allowed to dissolve under the tongue.

Subutex: a sublingual tablet formulation for treating opioid dependence with a focus on the induction phase of treatment.

BuTrans Abuse Causes

Neurotransmitters: communicating via axons and dendrites, neurotransmitters convert electrical impulses at the axon terminal. When the chemical structure of drugs mimic natural neurotransmitters, it disrupts normal processing, releases an excess amount of neurotransmitters and provides more pleasure than naturally possible. Drugs with euphoric effects that activate the reward system of the brain have the potential for addiction.

Personal history: there are life experiences that can lead to drug use, as with individuals who grew up around parents or guardians who abused drugs. Watching a parental figure abuse drugs enforces the belief that addiction is an acceptable behaviour.

Genes: according to NIH, genes account for 50% of your risk to become an addict. If your mum or dad was a drug addict before you were born (or took drugs whilst pregnant), there’s a chance you won’t only experience withdrawal symptoms at birth, but you might exhibit addictive symptoms as you grow.

Environment: The interplay between you and your environment plays a major role in addiction. Factors such as exposure to drugs, stress, social network, economic status, parental involvement and physical or sexual abuse.

Another reason why people abuse this substance is from prescribing physicians who are too quick to prescribe it to patients and failing to take them off the medication when tolerance sets in. Unlike methadone (that requires physician oversight), doctors don’t have to monitor you if you’re taking Suboxone or BuTrans. Patients can easily sell the drug on the black market, exacerbating the issue with diversion-related abuse.

Why Are BuTrans So Addictive?

The effects of BuTrans are mild with slow onset release via the patch, ensuring a long duration and making the drug less addictive than opioids, heroin and other addictive substances. The risk of becoming addicted is low, but those treated for opioid dependence with buprenorphine are more vulnerable to addiction.

Addictive Properties of Butrans

BuTrans maintains some of the existing physical dependence to opioids in a manageable way that is treated with tapering when the patient is deemed ready by a medical expert. Any habit-forming medication that causes pleasure has a risk of addiction. The cycle of euphoria leads to a craving for it and reinforces the repeated use of BuTrans to feel the ‘high’ effect. This drug can be abused by dissolving the liquid from the patch to inject and get high on buprenorphine.

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Methods of Use

An FDA-approved transdermal patch is prescribed by a physician if you have chronic pain that requires round-the-clock, long-term opioid use, where other treatments have not been successful. Given the risk of abuse, overdose and death, the transdermal patch should be reserved for patients for whom alternative treatment has not worked and for those undergoing opioid withdrawal symptoms.

If you’re undergoing opioid therapy, the total daily dosage will be calculated using the morphine equivalent. When you start using the patch, other opioid medication will be terminated. You will wear the patch on skin washed with clear water for seven days without taking it off.

Butrans Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

For over 10 years, Buprenorphine has been used as maintenance medication for heroin addiction to avoid withdrawal discomfort and manage opioid cravings. However, prescription painkillers like BuTrans contribute to drug-related deaths. Legitimate use quickly changes as tolerance develops.

The drug is easily available on the streets. When you abuse BuTrans for recreational purposes, it increases the risk of addiction to maintenance medication.

BuTrans Abuse and Addiction: How it starts and progresses

Once tolerance sets in, the original doses slowly released through patches don’t have the same effect. You put two patches on your skin instead of one to increase the efficiency and when that doesn’t work, you look for alternate sources of taking the drug. You might drain out the liquid to inject and send the drug right into your bloodstream which increases the potency of the high.

Signs and Symptoms of BuTrans Abuse

BuTrans is a schedule III-controlled substance with potential for abuse. It is subject to addiction, misuse and criminal diversion. The high drug content in the extended-release formulations increases the risk of abuse.

Physical signs of abuse include:

  • Muscle pain and cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Other symptoms of abuse include:
  • Strained relationship with loved ones
  • Finding random packages of BuTrans around the house
  • Running out of medication before the prescription is due to finish
  • Hiding drug use from friends
  • Erratic behaviour and mood swings
  • ‘Doctor shopping’
  • Emergency visits towards the end of the work day and refusal to undergo appropriate examination and testing
  • Preoccupation with drug use

Effects of BuTrans Abuse

The initial effects of BuTrans include the desired feelings of relaxation, calmness, euphoria and well-being, as well as reduced cravings for opiates.

The severity of negative effects depends on other pills taken alongside BuTrans such as prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines. Abuse effects include:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypotension
  • Fainting
  • Constipation
  • Poor memory
  • Apathetic mood
  • Inability to manage emotions
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • An extreme response to stress

Long-Term Effects of BuTrans Abuse

When you abuse BuTrans, it exacerbates pre-existing physical and mental health conditions including liver disease and asthma. If you’re using antidepressants, opioids, alcohol or benzos with Buprenorphine, certain drug interactions might arise, such as cardiovascular collapse and extremely dangerous respiratory depression.

A major danger of long-term maintenance medication like methadone and BuTrans is the risk of swapping one addiction for another. This drug is not the final solution and should be used in combination with psychotherapy, as it’s still an opioid.

Finally, long-term use of any opioid leads to opioids withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit this medication. Tolerance occurs when the original medication doesn’t produce the same maintenance effect and you increase the dosage to feel the drug’s full potency.

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Short-Term BuTrans Abuse Effects

Short-term side effects of abusing BuTrans include:

  • Change in heartbeat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Redness in an area where you wore the patch
  • Skin irritation and swelling
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Agitation
  • Fever-like symptoms
  • Twitching
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath

BuTrans Addiction Treatment

BuTrans is an opioid and treatment will follow the same procedure. Treatment starts with evaluation and intake. This process determines whether you’re a good fit for rehab using the details you provided, such as medical history, personal history, blood and urine samples and other answers to questions posed during intake. A therapist is on hand to conduct a psychiatric examination, looking for any co-occurring disorders that will be addressed during treatment. Based on the answers you provide, your medical team designs an individualised treatment plan for you.

After intake, you’ll go through detox – a five to ten day period during which you’ll rid your body of buprenorphine and any other substances you were taking. Doctors and care professionals use the tapering method to wean you off safely and provide medication for any uncomfortable symptoms.

Once you’re physically stabilized, you’ll be moved to rehab to continue treatment, whereby psychotherapist and drug counsellors work to help you understand the reasons for your addiction and equip you with tools to combat addiction.

Options for rehab include:

This is a structured residential drug rehabilitation programme where you live in a therapeutic in-house treatment facility for the duration of your treatment. It includes round-the-clock care from staff and medical professionals, 12-step and alternative groups, a range of therapy techniques, stress management, skills building and educational classes.

It benefits you more if you’re suffering from long-term drug addiction, mental health issues, combining BuTrans with other substances and have any existing medical conditions.

Outpatient rehab is not as structured as inpatient care. It offers buprenorphine addiction treatment sessions at various times during the week. It’s designed to work with your schedule if you can’t take time off work or school to attend rehab. Outpatient rehab comes in various formats and levels of intensity, but the focus and goals are the same. Programmes include day sessions, Intensive outpatient programmes and continuing care.

Detoxing from BuTrans

When you abuse BuTrans transdermal patch by using it in any way outside of its intended use, this is considered abuse. Recreational drug use accelerates the timeline from tolerance to addiction, as you may extract the liquid from the patch to inject it directly into your bloodstream. After tolerance comes dependence. At this stage, you could experience withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly quit BuTrans.

During detox, doctors use the tapering process, instead of just terminating use of the drug. This helps to reduce tolerance and spread withdrawal over a longer period to minimise discomfort and painful withdrawal symptoms. The ceiling effect dosage is used where you’re given the smallest dose required to mimic opioid effects in the brain. Doctors advise patients to take buprenorphine in the morning when blood levels are lowest and to avoid anticipating the dose – a symptom of addictive behaviour.

Detox can be completed either at a medical detox facility or via home detox. It’s advisable to detox at a medical facility where medical specialists are on hand 24/7 to provide care and support, ensuring you detox safely. A home detox is only advised for mild addicts who don’t have co-occurring disorders, polydrug use problems or medical conditions that might make them a danger to themselves and others during detox.

Treatment and Therapy Options for BuTrans Abuse and Addiction

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is based on the notion that destructive behaviours and emotions stem from destructive thoughts. It recognises the vicious cycle of negative emotions, thoughts and actions. During sessions, you’ll acknowledge worrisome feelings and behaviours; address thoughts and learn to redirect them towards positive thoughts and behaviour; establish goals for a healthy, abstinent life; and learn coping skills for dealing with negative thoughts when they arise.

Contingency management: The goal of contingency management is to teach healthy, positive behaviours that promote long-term recovery and abstinence from drugs. CM uses prize vouchers, incentives and other rewards to encourage positive behaviour. It is based on the principle that behaviour that is rewarded will be repeated and those that are punished will decrease over time.

Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT): Derived from CBT, dialectical behavioural therapy is effective in reducing substance addiction, treatment dropout rates, addressing anger, depression and improving social functioning. Unlike CBT (that focuses on individual therapy), DBT encompasses a range of physical and emotional problems you might suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues.

Motivational interviewing: Motivation to maintain abstinence. Motivation relates to the possibility that you will seek treatment, stay until you’re discharged and adhere to strategies learnt in treatment if you’re motivated. Your therapist’s job is to expand into engendering motivation and enhance your own to establish a partnership between you. Delivered in two to four sessions, it is designed as a brief intervention that mobilises you to use your own resources to bring about change.

BuTrans Withdrawal

While BuTrans is effective in treating Opioid withdrawal, it is addictive when misused. The drug takes longer to act in the body and remains active for longer periods.

Days 1-3: Symptoms peak within 72 hours after your last BuTrans dose. During this period, you’ll experience watery eyes, dilated pupils, diarrhoea, sweating, muscle pain and restlessness. Your treatment plan might include medication to treat specific symptoms.

Days 4-7: After the worst is over, you may continue to feel cramps, body aches and pain in your joints. Possible effects are also bouts of anxiety, sleeping difficulty, mood swings and depression. This is the stage where most of the psychological symptoms manifest, as your body eliminates remnants of BuTrans from your body.

Week 2: You might be prone to depression in the second week of treatment, as you feel an extreme loss of motivation. The pain of acute symptoms dissipates or reduces in intensity, but you might still experience lingering body aches.

Week 3-4: At this stage, most of the physical symptoms are gone, but drug cravings, depression and insomnia might linger. Relapse prevention is crucial at this stage because your brain is wired to seek the drug after long periods of use.

If you abused buprenorphine for longer periods or used higher doses at shorter frequencies, withdrawal might be longer and symptoms more intense. Physical withdrawal lasts weeks and psychological withdrawal months after you quit using drugs. Another aspect to watch out for is Post-acute or protracted withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). If you’re going through PAWS, there are long-lasting changes in the brain from long-term drug use. These changes take time to normalise, depending on the amount and frequency at which the drug was used.

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Effects of Withdrawal

BuTrans withdrawal symptoms are similar to other opioid drugs like methadone, heroin and oxycodone, although milder symptoms can be disruptive and uncomfortable. Effects of BuTrans withdrawal include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Body aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Diarrhoea
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Getting Through a Withdrawal from BuTrans

Getting through withdrawal is easier at a medical detox facility because a medical professional can help to safely manage detox symptoms and create a treatment plan that eliminates the risk of relapse. BuTrans is a temporary solution. Your recovery goal is to live a normal life without drugs of any sort.

When you abuse maintenance medication, it’s important to establish a new path to recovery that doesn’t involve medication with any sort of addictive potential. The plan will include alternative therapies to manage withdrawal, peer support, treatment from highly educated and experienced professionals, relapse prevention plan and long-term aftercare.

Building a New Drug-Free Life

The first steps to building a drug-free life after rehab are to ensure you follow your after-care programme and have a relapse prevention plan in place. Stay active, but don’t burn out or become stressed. Find your sense of community by joining Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery or other community-based support groups that encourage abstinence. Try new experiences and skills; it’s not healthy to focus all your attention on work and recovery.

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Change your drug-using friends for abstinent ones who have the same goals as you. Learn to say ‘No’ in a way that doesn’t invite follow-up questions. People who love you will encourage your abstinence journey.

Important Facts and Stats about BuTrans Addiction and Abuse

  • BuTrans patches should only be worn on your skin.
  • The number of buprenorphine prescriptions has risen in recent years, with pharmacies receiving over 190 million dosages of buprenorphine.
  • Hospital visits originating from buprenorphine increased from 3,161 in 2005 to 30,135 in 2010.
  • Buprenorphine was first manufactured in 1969 by Reckitt; Colman.
  • More users have succeeded in treating opioid addiction from buprenorphine than placebo pills or methadone.
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Head-to-head comparisons of BuTrans use, abuse, side effects, ratings, and more

BuTrans skin patches are an opioid pain medication used for around-the-clock treatment of moderate to a severe chronic pain that cannot be treated with other medication. Buprenorphine has a lower risk of addiction and overdose than methadone. Once you wear the transdermal patch, the effect lasts seven days, reducing the chances of relapse.

When used according to a doctor’s prescription, there’s a very low risk of addiction, as buprenorphine is designed to reduce your ability to abuse prescription medication. You abuse Buprenorphine when you wear more than one patch or extract the gel inside it to inject or smoke. Side effects of abusing BuTrans include low sex drive, inability to maintain an erection, muscle twitches, fever, insomnia, drug craving, constipation, vomiting and irritability.

It has an average score of 9.1 for opiate dependence, 6.0 for chronic pain and 7.4 for normal pain. Those who used it as replacement medication called it the best drug for opioid addiction because they found it easier to withdraw from Buprenorphine than methadone.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between buprenorphine, Subutex and Suboxone?

Buprenorphine belongs to the family of opiate agonists. It contains chemicals that link to opioid receptors in the brain to produce feelings of euphoria without the negative effects of dependence or addiction. Subutex is a brand name for buprenorphine and is taken as sublingual tablets, left to dissolve under the tongue. Suboxone is a combination of Buprenorphine and naloxone.

Can you get ‘high’ on buprenorphine?

As a replacement medication, it’s difficult to get ‘high’ on buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is designed to block cravings and opiate withdrawal symptoms. The low-risk potential of abuse means it’s not intense enough to produce the ‘highness’ associated with most opiates.

How does this medication work?

BuTrans works like methadone, but instead of taking it at a clinic under doctor’s supervision, you can apply the patch on your own at home to make the process easier. Buprenorphine occupies and stimulates opioid receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of opioids without the intense ‘high’ produced by heroin and other drugs.

What will it do for me?

You take BuTrans for two reasons; to reduce chronic pain or cope with withdrawal cravings. It alters pain signals sent to the brain and interrupts withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making it easier to quit.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Buprenorphine comes in many forms, but the popular ones include Suboxone, BuTrans, Subutex and Buprenex.

How should I use this medication?

Use the medication exactly how your doctor prescribed it to avoid accidental overdose, negative side effects and addiction.

Who should not take this medication?

Do not use BuTrans if you are pregnant (causes withdrawal in new babies), experiencing blockage in your intestine, severe breathing problem, had any type of lung disease, drug/alcohol addiction, brain tumour, head injury or seizures.

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Side effects of BuTrans patch include dry mouth, sleeping difficulty, stomach pain, shortness of breath, skin irritation, headache, irregular menstruation, swelling of your tongue, face or throat, decreased sexual desire and inability to maintain an erection.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

BuTrans is for use on your skin, so do not allow the medicine to touch your eyes, lips or mouth. Small amounts could be fatal for children, so keep out of their reach. Do not wear for longer than seven days.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

Major interactions with BuTrans include morphine, tramadol, fentanyl, alcohol, clonazepam, codeine, diazepam, baclofen, Percocet, hydrocodone, Klonopin, Xanax, Flexeril and Vicodin.

Are there advantages of BuTrans for long-term therapy?

BuTrans prevents you from taking more harmful drugs and helps you regain control of your life because the effects are not mind-altering. Using buprenorphine boosts the recovery process and helps you reach a point where you don’t need drugs to live a normal life.

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