Emergency departments reported a significant rise in the number of incidents related to the opioid addiction medication between 2005 and 2010, according to a new government report. Buprenorphine-related visits rose from 3,161 in 2005, to 30,135 in 2010, according to Medical News Today. The report was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The FDA approved buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid addiction, for its ability to prevent opioid misuse without any withdrawal effects. However, buprenorphine use has greatly increased in the past few years; in 2005, it went from 5,656 physicians prescribing the drug to 100,000 patients. By 2010, more than 18,500 doctors prescribed the medication to over 800,000 patients.
While the risk of overdose potential is much lower than drugs like methadone, buprenorphine can cause serious harmful effects, particularly if it is taken improperly, or for non-medical uses - according to a SAMHSA news release.
Half of buprenorphine-related emergency department visits in 2010 involved the non-medical use of the drug. Of the reported visits, 59 percent also involved the use of other drugs such as benzodiazepines, pain relievers and illicit drugs.