Buprenorphine and Naloxone for Heroin Dependence
- Cite this article as:
- Johnson, R.E. & McCagh, J.C. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2000) 2: 519. doi:10.1007/s11920-000-0012-8
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The pharmacology of buprenorphine is unique because of its partial agonist profile at the mu-opioid receptor (ie, high affinity, low intrinsic activity and slow dissociation). This unique profile results in greater safety, less physical dependence, and greater flexibility in dose scheduling. Buprenorphine has been investigated in combination with the opioid antagonist, naloxone, with the goal of decreasing abuse, misuse, and diversion. When combined with naloxone in a sublingual tablet, buprenorphine has been shown to be effective 1) in retaining patients in treatment, 2) in reducing opioid use and craving, and 3) when dosed less-than-daily. The pharmacologic effects of buprenorphine are not altered by the addition of naloxone when administered to the population in an appropriate combination ratio. However, if taken intravenously by individuals dependent on short-or long-acting opioids a precipitated withdrawal syndrome is observed, which should reduce its abuse potential. This review discusses the rationale for development and evidence supporting the use of a buprenorphine/naloxone combination product. The buprenorphine/naloxone combination product should be considered for use in primary care office-based settings as a safe and effective treatment that is likely to increase the availability of agonist treatment for opioid dependence.