Belbuca is a prescription medication, given to patients as a dissolvable film. The film is placed inside the cheek, where it then dissolves within around 30 minutes. The film is available in varying dosage strengths. Belbuca is prescribed for chronic, severe pain requiring around-the-clock treatment. Belbuca should be prescribed to people who don’t get pain relief from non-narcotic medications or other immediate-release opioids. The active ingredient in Belbuca is buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist. Buprenorphine is used not only as an opioid pain medication but also for the treatment of opioid misuse, addiction and dependence. When buprenorphine is used for pain, it can change how the brain and body sense and respond to the pain.
Belbuca misuse is possible, but the risk is lower than with other opioids. Buprenorphine, as a partial opioid agonist, has milder effects than other opioids. That’s why buprenorphine can be used as a medication-assisted treatment option for people who misuse or are dependent on other opioids. Buprenorphine doesn’t tend to produce the intense euphoric high people desire when they misuse opioids. There’s also a ceiling effect with buprenorphine. Beyond a certain point, the effects of buprenorphine aren’t going to increase by taking more, at least not significantly. Despite some of the features of Belbuca that make the misuse potential lower, the risk still exists to an extent. Before someone is prescribed Belbuca for pain, their doctor should go over any history they could have of substance misuse. Symptoms of Belbuca misuse can include:
- Taking a larger dose than advised by a medical provider
- Taking Belbuca more often than instructed by a physician
- Using Belbuca without a prescription
- Using it in other ways than how it should be used, such as liquefying the buprenorphine and injecting it
- Using Belbuca to get certain effects, such as euphoria or relaxation
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While Belbuca may have milder overall effects than full opioid agonists, many of the side effects of the drug are similar to other prescription narcotics. Some of the possible side effects of Belbuca misuse can include addiction and dependence. Other physical side effects of Belbuca can include:
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- Strange sleep patterns
- Heart palpitations
- Excessive drowsiness
- Nausea, vomiting and constipation
- Headaches or migraines
- Changes in behavior
- Attention problems
- Lowered blood pressure
Addiction is considered a complex disease that affects the brain, behavior, body and the entire life of the person affected. There are varying levels of addiction, including mild, moderate and severe. Opioids are particularly addictive substances, and while the risk of Belbuca addiction is lower than with other opioids, it’s still something people should know exists. When someone has a Belbuca addiction, they will do anything to continue using the drug. Someone who’s misusing Belbuca may have initially been misusing other opioids for an extended period as well. Addiction changes the thinking, behavior and physical functions of the person. Someone addicted to Belbuca will experience changes in the wiring and functionality of the brain, and the use of the drug becomes out of their control. Outward signs that a Belbecua addiction could exist include:
- Compulsive and seemingly out-of-control drug use
- Doctor shopping to try and get prescriptions for opioids like Belbuca
- Stealing or lying to get drugs
- Continuing to use Belbuca even when there are negative health or life effects
- Trying to stop using Belbuca unsuccessfully
- Withdrawal symptoms if someone stops using it suddenly or lowers their dosage
- Belbuca is the priority of the individual’s life
- Creating symptoms to get more prescriptions
- Social problems and issues in relationships
- Risky drug use
- The development of a tolerance to the drug
- Problems at school or work
The long-term effects of Belbuca will likely be milder than what might be seen with other opioids, but complications are still possible. Long-term use of a drug like Belbuca can cause liver damage, and it can have effects on the heart as well. Damage to the cardiovascular system can increase a person’s chances of experiencing a stroke or heart problems. If someone’s respiration is regularly slowed because of the use of Belbuca, it can cause a lack of adequate oxygen in the brain. That can cause brain and cognitive impairment. People who misuse opioids like Belbuca or use them over the long-term may have new or worsening psychological symptoms like depression, and the person may have changed pain responses over time. For example, someone who uses Belbuca for a long time may have a low pain threshold and increased sensitivity.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.