Mixing Alcohol And The Buprenorphine Transdermal System:
Side Effects, Interactions And Blackouts

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The buprenorphine transdermal system is also known under the trade name Butrans. Butrans is a prescription pain medication that contains the opioid drug buprenorphine. The buprenorphine transdermal system is prescribed to patients suffering from chronic, daily, around-the-clock pain. Butrans is only intended to be prescribed patients who have already tried other treatment options. It’s often used along with non-opioid pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, to improve pain relief. The buprenorphine transdermal system is a patch, applied directly to the skin. Over a period of around seven days, the patch delivers steady-state concentrations of buprenorphine. Then, the patch should be changed and replaced with a new one. There are varying strengths of the buprenorphine transdermal system. Dosage guidelines are based on individual factors, such as the severity of pain and whether or not someone has a tolerance to opioids.

Buprenorphine is the active ingredient in the transdermal Butrans system. Buprenorphine is an opioid, but it’s different from other opioids like heroin and prescription pain drugs. Rather than being a full opioid agonist, buprenorphine is a partial agonist. Buprenorphine activates opioid receptors to provide pain relief but only partially. As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine has a lower risk profile and fewer intense effects as compared to other opioids. Buprenorphine is used not only as a pain medicine but also in addiction treatment. Buprenorphine is found in several medication-assisted treatment options for opioid addiction and dependence. Buprenorphine can be helpful in these areas because it can prevent withdrawal symptoms, and it can block the effects of other opioids.

Mixing Alcohol And The Buprenorphine Transdermal System: Side Effects, Interactions And Blackouts
Before someone is prescribed the buprenorphine transdermal system, they should let their physician know of any history of substance misuse. Patients should also let their doctor know about any substances they regularly use, including alcohol. If someone mixes alcohol and the buprenorphine transdermal system, they may experience heightened side effects. Possible mild, but uncomfortable, side effects of mixing alcohol and buprenorphine can include drowsiness, dizziness, headache and nausea.

More severe side effects are possible as well. First, the buprenorphine transdermal system can cause respiratory depression. Alcohol can also depress respiration, so if someone mixes the two, they are at an increased risk of a fatal overdose. Both alcohol and buprenorphine can affect the liver as well. Signs of a liver problem can include skin or whites of the eyes turning yellow, dark urine or light-colored stools. If someone is mixing alcohol and the buprenorphine transdermal system, they may also be more likely to misuse the medication because of impaired judgment and thinking. Both alcohol and buprenorphine are central nervous system depressants. Other effects of using two CNS depressants simultaneously can include blood pressure and heart rate changes. Buprenorphine can cause memory impairment when it’s misused at high doses and can also affect cognition. Alcohol can heighten these effects, which can lead to being in risky situations or experiencing blackouts.

Mixing alcohol and buprenorphine can be highly dangerous or deadly. The combination of two central nervous system depressants can cause everything from mild effects like nausea and vomiting to fatal respiratory depression. It’s important not to use alcohol with buprenorphine. There’s also the potential for addiction and dependence with both substances. Being addicted to multiple substances can require a more comprehensive treatment approach and can make withdrawal symptoms more severe.

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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.