Approach to buprenorphine use for opioid withdrawal treatment in the emergency setting

David H Cisewski, Cynthia Santos, Alex Koyfman, Brit Long
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 2019, 37 (1): 143-150

INTRODUCTION: Opioid use disorder (OUD) is increasing in prevalence throughout the world, with approximately three million individuals in the United States affected. Buprenorphine is a medication designed, researched, and effectively used to assist in OUD recovery.

OBJECTIVE: This narrative review discusses an approach to initiating buprenorphine in the emergency department (ED) for opioid-abuse recovery.

DISCUSSION: Buprenorphine is a partial mu-opioid receptor agonist with high affinity and low intrinsic activity. Buprenorphine's long half-life, high potency, and 'ceiling effect' for both euphoric sensation and adverse effects make it an optimal treatment alternative for patients presenting to the ED with opioid withdrawal. While most commonly provided as a sublingual film or tablet, buprenorphine can also be delivered via transbuccal, transdermal, subdermal (implant), subcutaneous, and parenteral routes. Prior to ED administration, caution is recommended to avoid precipitation of buprenorphine-induced opioid withdrawal. Following the evaluation of common opioid withdrawal symptoms, a step-by-step approach to buprenorphine can by utilized to reach a sustained withdrawal relief. A multimodal medication-assisted treatment (MAT) plan involving pharmacologic treatment, as well as counseling and behavioral therapy, is essential to maintaining opioid remission. Patients may be safely discharged with safe-use counseling, close outpatient follow-up, and return precautions for continued management of their OUD. Establishing a buprenorphine program in the ED involves a multifactorial approach to establish a pro-buprenorphine culture.

CONCLUSIONS: Buprenorphine is an evidence-based, safe, effective treatment option for OUD in an ED-setting. Though successfully utilized by many ED-based treatment programs, the stigma of 'replacing one opioid with another' remains a barrier. Evidence-based discussions on the safety and benefits of buprenorphine are essential to promoting a culture of acceptance and optimizing ED OUD treatment.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"