Most people enter substance abuse treatment to obtain a drug-free life. Most rehab programs are designed to build improved health and function. These goals are reached through counseling, medication management, comprehensive healthcare, and supportive staff and peers.

Opioid addictions are occasionally treated with medication. Drugs like suboxone and buprenorphine are occasionally used to help wean people off of more powerful opioids. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made changes to buprenorphine prescribing policies that may help more individuals reach their goals.

Every treatment path is different. Everyone’s recovery goals and needs are unique. No two people want or need the same thing from recovery. This is why no two treatment plans will be identical. As the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health shares:

“Ideally, services are not ‘one size fits all’ but are tailored to the unique needs of the individual. Treatment must be provided for an adequate length of time and should address the patient’s substance use as well as related health and social consequences that could contribute to the risk of relapse, including connecting the patient to social support, housing, employment, and other wrap-around services.”1

While patients and their loved ones are often ready to end any reliance on substances, their ultimate goal may be best reached by using a medication like buprenorphine. Patients should talk with their addiction treatment provider to determine the best plan to manage recovery and avoid relapse. This plan should be adjusted regularly to meet changing needs and personal circumstances.

How Buprenorphine May Help

Buprenorphine is one of several medications that may be part of an overall treatment plan. It is an opioid partial agonist. This means that buprenorphine use does come with risks of side effects and abuse. However, these risks are low when the drug is used as prescribed.

As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) explains, “Like opioids, [buprenorphine] produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are weaker than those of full drugs such as heroin and methadone.”2

ceiling-effect-of-buprenorphine-chart-opioid-effect-dose-level-methadone-buprenorphineBuprenorphine will only work to a certain extent. After a certain point, this medication will not provide any type of “high.” This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of side effects, misuse, and dependency. In exchange for some possible side effects, buprenorphine can help reduce or eliminate other opioid use. It is not a total answer to addiction, but it may be a helpful weapon in the battle.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health explains, “The available medications do not by themselves restore the addicted brain to health, but they can support an individual’s treatment process and recovery by preventing the substance from having pleasurable effects in the brain, by causing an unpleasant reaction when the substance is used, or by controlling symptoms of withdrawal and craving.” Buprenorphine can help individuals find and maintain freedom from addiction when used as part of an overall treatment program.

For many people, access to buprenorphine treatment is life saving. Buprenorphine made recovery reachable to some who otherwise would not have been able to get the treatment they need. Even recently, prescribing limitations still made comprehensive, appropriate treatment difficult for some to find.

The recent changes made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Serviceshelp ensure individuals who need buprenorphine have access to it.3 Former laws only allowed physicians to prescribe buprenorphine. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants can now begin training to prescribe the drug.

Now, more qualified providers can offer these life-saving drugs. As of 2017, experienced, licensed professionals that complete buprenorphine training may write prescriptions for up to 30 patients. This limit on the number of prescriptions may be eligible for change.

More Access to Help

If you or someone you care about needs assistance with an opioid addiction, we can help. Skywood Recovery is a leading provider of addiction recovery and mental health services. Our confidential helpline can put you in touch with professionals who care.


1 Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Surgeongeneral.gov. 18 Nov 2016. Retrieved 14 Jul 2017.

Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 14 Jul 2017.

HHS takes additional steps to expand access to opioid treatment. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 16 Nov 2016. Retrieved 14 Jul 2017.