Butrans Patches Symptoms and Warning Signs

The UK Ministry of Justice recently released data showing the extent of buprenorphine abuse in UK prisons, calling it “the third most abused drug” among inmates. Opioid abuse constitutes a global problem; in the UK, heroin and other opioids are one of the leading causes of drug-related fatalities.

Buprenorphine and methadone are provided by the NHS as replacement medication for those dealing with substance abuse. While it reduces the risk of fatalities, many recovering addicts are switching from addiction to Buprenorphine to that of other related substances.

Butrans is a buprenorphine transdermal system, approved by the FDA in 2010 for managing severe pain that needs round-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment when other opioid medications have not been effective. There are some limitations to its use because of the risk of abuse and subsequently overdose from the extended-release formulations. As a Schedule III controlled substance, in the US, patients can’t take the medication for longer than six months.

Other Products Containing Buprenorphine

Suboxone: This is an opioid medication that contains both naloxone and buprenorphine. Naloxone prevents you from feeling the ‘high’ associated with opioid abuse.

Subutex: A brand of buprenorphine in a sublingual tablet containing Buprenorphine HCI, which is available in two dosage strengths of 2 mg and 8 mg, respectively.

Buprenex: An injectable form of buprenorphine, this can be injected intramuscularly or intravenously.

Belbuca film: The first FDA-approved buccal formulation which works as around-the-clock treatment of moderate to severe pain that can’t be controlled by other opioid medicines.

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Recognising the Common Warning Signs of Butrans Patch Abuse

Buprenorphine can be addictive when misused. Most people begin by taking Butrans patches to treat severe pain or manage withdrawal symptoms. Each patch slowly delivers buprenorphine through the skin for a week and helps new opioid recovering addicts cope with withdrawal symptoms. Butrans patches are not a cure for addiction; you could easily switch one addiction for another if you abuse the transdermal patch in any way.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with Butrans patch addiction, some signs to look out for include:

Increased tolerance: The first sign of substance dependence is when your loved one starts taking higher doses because the regular dose isn’t effective anymore.

Preoccupation with drugs: Someone who is abusing Butrans spends a lot of energy, time and money obtaining it. They are willing to travel or go to unsafe locations to source more drugs.

Lying to gain more prescriptions: Your loved one is willing to lie and ‘doctor shop’ to source multiple prescriptions. If Butrans is used for addiction management, this can be applied during the detox period.

Erratic behaviour: Mood swings, outbursts of anger, aggression, euphoria and calmness are some of the emotions an addict goes through. The positive emotions occur after they’ve worn two or more Butrans patches, while the negative effects manifest when they ‘crash’ from the ‘high’ or can’t access more drugs.

Withdrawal symptoms: A warning sign of addiction is the onset of withdrawal symptoms when your loved one attempts to quit using Butrans. The body has learnt to function with high levels of buprenorphine; it, therefore, reacts to the lack of supply by exhibiting withdrawal symptoms as it re-learns to function without buprenorphine.

Oher warning signs of abuse include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Increased sedation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hypotension
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Depression

The Dangers of Butrans Patch Abuse

If you don’t have a history of substance abuse or tolerance for opioids, you might experience a more powerful ‘high’ when you extract the liquid from the patch to smoke or inject. The risk of overdosing increases when you combine Butrans with other substances, such as alcohol. Alcohol inhibits the metabolism of Butrans, leaving the drug active for longer than it was originally designed.
A common occurrence when people mix both substances is to pass out, suffer respiratory depression or coma. Like other opioids, Butrans carries a sedative effect, so if you operate heavy machinery or drive whilst under its influence, you could suffer a fatal accident.

If you have liver problems such as Hepatitis, get your liver checked regularly when using a Butrans Patch, because buprenorphine is metabolised in the liver, which might lead to liver dysfunction. Butrans also affects blood pressure; in turn, you could also experience fainting spells, low blood pressure, hypertension and dizziness.

Pregnant women are advised not to take Butrans because the drug reaches the foetus through the placenta, causing the baby to suffer withdrawal symptoms at birth.

Recognising a Butrans Patch Addiction

People who have a history of substance abuse are always prone to addiction, no matter how low the risk of dependency. Your system is sensitive to any substance that produces a feeling of euphoria or pleasure and it’s easy to graduate from medical use to abuse. Since Butrans is a transdermal patch, a few signs to look out for include:

  • Wearing someone else’s patch
  • Wearing more than one patch
  • Wearing a patch at a higher dose than what you were prescribed
  • Opening the patch to extract the liquid gel
  • Dissolving the gel so you can snort or inject it directly into your bloodstream
  • Buying Butrans patches on the street or from those who have a running prescription
  • Using a fake prescription to buy Butrans
  • Experiencing an intense craving for Butrans
  • Continued use, even when you recognise the negative effects it has on your relationships and general health
  • Draining your bank account to fund Butrans abuse
  • Distortion in sleep patterns
  • Lack of control over Butrans use
  • Failed attempts to quit Butrans usage
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Butrans Patch Addiction and the Brain

Buprenorphine attaches to opioid receptors in the brain to reduce feelings of chronic pain, respiration and also induce euphoria. Wearing more than the recommended number of patches increases the effects. Butrans works as a partial mu receptor agonist – preventing recreational users from feeling the positive effects of substance abuse such as the associated ‘high’.

The brain believes it’s getting the same opioids and reacts without causing respiratory depression or strong feelings of euphoria. This prevents the reward centre from feeling the effect of opioids.

However, when you take larger doses, you could become addicted, as Butrans is a habit-forming medication. When taken alongside sedative-hypnotics, alcohol or opioids, it slows down the functioning of the central nervous system, which leads to poor motor skills and drowsiness. Higher doses of Butrans also trigger the release of dopamine in the ventral tegmental area (linked to buprenorphine) and create an effect similar to morphine.

Learn the Immediate Side Effects of Butrans Patch Abuse

The desired immediate effects you might feel after taking Butrans include:

  • Increased relaxation
  • Pain relief, 20-30 times more potent than morphine
  • The sense of calm, lower stress and perception of fewer worries
  • Mild euphoria

When you ‘crash’ from the ‘high’, you might experience the following side-effects:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Hives/Skin Rashes
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Aggression
  • Blurry vision

You could develop an addiction to maintenance medication if you take the drug for non-medical purposes. The risk is higher for former addicts, whose brains are still re-learning how to function without substance abuse.

Learn the Long-Term Effects of Butrans Patch Abuse

Some people claim that their prescribing doctors didn’t inform them about the potential for abuse when using Butrans Patches. If you weren’t told, you’ll come to notice that with long-term use, it’s harder to not wear more patches, as compulsion develops on a chemical level. Butrans is not the final answer to addiction. However, attending a drug rehabilitation programme helps you recover from substance abuse.

Being complacent about Butrans is dangerous because you could become dependent on the substance to function properly. Drugs created to help with opioid addiction are also addictive, as they contain small quantities of opioids to enable buprenorphine to attach to opioid receptors in the brain. In the hands of an excellent physician, a Butrans Patch is an effective medication for treating withdrawal symptoms. When abused or taken in any manner not prescribed by your doctor, you could suffer horrific bouts of depression.

When you decide to quit, Butrans withdrawal is harder than other opioids, because the initial effects last seven days and the drug can stay in your body up to nine days after the dose wears off. Unlike Oxycontin and Percocet, buprenorphine withdrawal comes in waves and lasts months for most long-term users. Other effects of long-term abuse include:

  • Psychosis
  • Isolation
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased tolerance for pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Increased drowsiness

Intervention for Butrans Patch Addiction

An intervention is usually staged to help a loved one (who is struggling with substance abuse) change their behaviour. During an intervention, a team is gathered to present their case in front of the addict, detailing how their substance abuse has affected them and encouraging the addict to seek treatment for their addiction. This involves close family members and friends of the addict in question.

The group meets to discuss what the talking points will be. Benefits of seeking treatment – as well as consequences of what could happen if the addict doesn’t seek treatment – are also outlined. It helps to involve a professional interventionist who has experience dealing with delicate situations. They will ensure proceedings don’t escalate into violence and also motivate the addict to seek help. When conducted properly, interventions are very successful.

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Detox and Withdrawal from Butrans Patch

Most people who’ve experienced Buprenorphine withdrawal say it feels like a very bad case of flu. The patch lasts for seven days, so withdrawal symptoms take hold after the effects of the patch wear off. Physical symptoms usually last up to 10 days, while psychological symptoms can linger up to three weeks or months in some patients.

Symptoms of Butrans withdrawal include:

  • Yawning
  • Muscle aches
  • Body pain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Abnormal skin sensation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weight loss

The length of detox depends on the frequency of use, as well as the duration and amount of buprenorphine you consumed. Symptoms peak at the end of the first week and fade after three to four weeks.

Treatment and Next Steps

When you’re addicted to Butrans, do not quit without any form of professional help, because you might experience painful withdrawal symptoms that cause you to relapse or suffer a fatal overdose. Medical professionals can help you recover from Butrans addiction using detoxification and substance rehabilitation treatment.

During detox, doctors help you to safely withdraw from substance abuse through the provision of a secure environment, where you’ll be monitored 24/7 by medical professionals. Your regular dose is gradually reduced until all traces of Butrans have left your system. This reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms and ensures you remain safe and comfortable during the process.

Most recovering addicts prefer to receive treatment as inpatients. This involves you staying at a rehabilitation clinic for the entire duration of treatment. Inpatient rehab is considered the most effective type of treatment. Residents enjoy round-the-clock support from staff and you’ll focus on reaching your recovery goals without any distractions. During rehab, you’ll meet with a psychotherapist to determine why you abused Butrans initially, as well as learn copings skills to avoid a relapse after treatment. Therapy techniques include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and Contingency Management.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Butrans patches and Suboxone?

The major difference between Butrans and Suboxone is that the latter contains naloxone and buprenorphine, while the former only contains buprenorphine.

What is the ‘high’ experience like when you use Butrans?

The immediate feeling is a sense of mild euphoria, calmness, well-being and relaxation. Unlike other opioids, there is a peak or ceiling effect. When you reach this point, you won’t feel an intense effect, even when you take a larger dose of Butrans.

Why do people abuse Butrans?

Because Butrans is a withdrawal medication with mild effects, new recreational users view it as a ‘gateway drug’. Some users take Butrans to join a social circle or experiment because they are curious about drugs. Former substance users who are struggling with addiction view buprenorphine as a safer addiction, with milder side effects than other illicit substances.

Can I become addicted to Butrans?

The risk of abuse is low with Butrans, because of the ceiling effect. However, taking larger doses for longer periods increases the risk of addiction.

What are the symptoms of Butrans addiction?

Extracting the liquid to smoke or inject; taking larger doses; slurred speech; inability to quit without professional help; continued use, in spite of the visible negative effects on your relationships, finances and health.

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