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Buprenorphine Abuse and Exposures Increasing — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
December 14, 2012

Buprenorphine Abuse and Exposures Increasing

The increased availability of buprenorphine, used to treat opioid dependence, has resulted in a surge in the number of exposures reported to the poison control center in Utah between 2002 (when the drug was approved) and 2011, according to an MMWR article.

Three of the 462 cases were fatal (two in adults and one in a teenager). Of the 250 adult exposures, 33 were unintentional, 126 were intentional. There were 164 cases documented among children 5 or younger.

Buprenorphine causes euphoria and respiratory depression that are limited in habituated opioid users, but not in the opioid-naive, particularly young children.

The authors remind clinicians and pharmacists "to counsel patients carefully regarding the safe use, storage, and disposal of buprenorphine."

Reader Comments (1)

James Recht

This "surge" is approximately 1000 times lower than the exposures and deaths caused by oxycodone, hydrocodone and other prescription painkillers during this same time period. Buprenorphine is a potentially life-saving treatment for thousands of our patients.

Competing interests: None declared

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