Belbuca is a prescription medication with the active ingredient buprenorphine. Belbuca comes as a medicated, dissolvable film. The buccal film is placed inside the cheek of the patient, and it delivers around-the-clock pain relief. Belbuca is intended for people’s whose pain isn’t responding to other medications, and it’s a controlled delivery system. Buprenorphine is an opioid, but it only partially activates opioid receptors. The effects of buprenorphine are milder, and the risk of misuse is lower, as compared to other full opioids. When someone is prescribed Belbuca, their doctor should go over their history of substance misuse. Doctors should also be aware that Belbuca isn’t intended for pain that doesn’t occur constantly. When someone is prescribed Belbuca, they should use it exactly as prescribed and follow dosage instructions exactly. Once the medicated film adheres to the cheek of the patient, it takes about 30 minutes to dissolve fully. People should be warned about the risks of mixing Belbuca with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines because it can cause respiratory depression.
The active ingredient in Belbuca, buprenorphine, is a Schedule III controlled substance in the U.S. According to the DEA, there is a lower risk of misuse than with substances that are Schedule I and II. Schedule I are the controlled substances with the highest potential for misuse, and Schedule II drugs are believed to have a high potential for misuse as well. Full opioid agonists are Schedule II in the U.S. These include narcotics like oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and hydrocodone. Since buprenorphine has milder effects than full opioids, it is defined by the DEA as having a potential for moderate or low physical or psychological dependence, but the risk does still exist.
While buprenorphine doesn’t have the full effects of other opioids, it does have the potential to be misused and become addictive. The opioid epidemic has taken center stage in the U.S., for all the wrong reasons. There are an estimated two million Americans dependent on or misusing street drugs and prescription opioids. There were more than 63,600 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016. Of those, more than 42,200 involved an opioid. According to CNN, that represents an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths every day. Of those, the most widely prescribed was hydrocodone, which is the active ingredient in brand-name Vicodin. Other often misused opioids include oxycodone, found in brand-name Percocet, as well as fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid intended to be used as a surgical anesthetic.
Belbuca delivers a controlled-release of buprenorphine. Buprenorphine partially binds to opioid receptors, and in doing so, alters how pain signals are sent. There may be some mild euphoria associated with the use of Belbcua as well because opioids activate rewards areas in the brain and cause a release of the feel-good hormone dopamine. As with other opioids, Belbuca causes the central nervous system to slow. Slowed CNS functionality can lead to slower breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. Buprenorphine stays in the receptors much longer than other opioids, and if someone takes another opioid while on Belbuca or buprenorphine, the effects will be blocked. Belbuca can cause feelings of dizziness and drowsiness, as well as providing pain relief.
The active ingredient in Belbuca — buprenorphine — has a long half-life. The elimination half-life is a reference to how long it takes half the dose of a drug to be eliminated from the system of the patient. The average elimination half-life for buprenorphine is anywhere from 32 to 35 hours. Typically, for a drug to be fully eliminated from the system, it requires five half-lives. Based on the average half-life estimate of buprenorphine, it could take 160 to 175 hours for a full dose of Belbuca to be eliminated from the system of the patient.
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The above estimations of the half-life of Belbuca are just that — estimates. They are averages based on how long it takes people to eliminate the drug from their system. However, there can be variances based on individual and situational factors. Some of the factors that influence how long Belbuca stays in your system include:
- The dose used: The amount of Belbuca someone uses will impact how long it stays in their system, and whether or not someone is a long-term taker of the drug can also play a role. Drugs can accumulate in the system of the patient, so the more or the longer someone uses something like Belbuca, the longer it will take their system to eliminate all of it.
- Metabolism: People with faster metabolisms eliminate drugs from their system faster than people with slow metabolisms, in most cases.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions and hepatic impairment can slow down how long it takes for a drug to leave the system of a patient.
- Age: It takes longer for older people to eliminate substances from their system than younger people, usually.
Other factors that influence how long Belbuca stays in your system can include physical activity level and body weight. More active people and also larger people tend to have faster elimination times for substances they use. Well-hydrated people can also eliminate drugs from their system faster because they urinate more.
Belbuca can show up on drug tests since it’s an opioid or at least a partial opioid. However, buprenorphine might not be tested for on a standard drug screening because the metabolite it leaves behind is different from other misused opioids. A drug test might have to specifically be looking for buprenorphine for it to show up on the screening. So how long would Belbuca show up in different drug tests including a urine screening, a hair follicle test and a blood test? Belbuca could show up for six days or more in a urine test. In a hair test, Belbuca could show up for up to 90 days, which is almost always the detection with a hair follicle test. Blood tests tend to have the shortest detection windows, so they’re not often the preferred method for drug testing. A blood test will usually show the use of Belbuca for only a few hours after the last dose.
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Belbuca (Buprenorphine) Overdose
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