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What Is Bupe?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Nov 29, 2023 • 4 cited sources

Bupe is a slang name for buprenorphine, a medication used to help treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Bupe is combined with naloxone in Suboxone, a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT). [1]

The use of buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder is highly evidence-based, especially if its prescribed use is combined with treatments like behavioral therapy and counseling. This medication alleviates opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings and reduces the risk of relapse.

Bupe Products and Brands for OUD

The following buprenorphine medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of OUD: [1]

  • Suboxone: buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual films
  • Zubsolv: buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets 
  • Generic: buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets
  • Bunavail: buprenorphine/naloxone buccal film
  • Probuphine: buprenorphine implants
  • Sublocade: buprenorphine extended-release injection
  • Subutex: buprenorphine sublingual tablets (no longer available)

Various formulations of buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone are typically covered by health insurance, including Medicaid. And if you don’t have insurance, you can still find low-cost or free Suboxone via coupons or savings cards. 

How Does ‘Bupe’ Work?

At a basic level, bupe, or buprenorphine, works by helping to stop opioid cravings, blocking withdrawal symptoms, and also blocking the effects of other opioids a person might try to misuse.[2]

Buprenorphine is a long-acting partial opioid agonist. It attaches to opioid receptors in the brain but not as potently as other “full” opioids. It therefore satisfies cravings and prevents withdrawal symptoms from full opioids like heroin and fentanyl, without producing euphoria or the risks of respiratory depression or overdose seen with these illicit substances. 

Bupe Ceiling Effect

Buprenorphine also has a ceiling effect, which can help keep patients safe. It means that bupe or Suboxone’s sedative effects plateau at moderate doses, meaning that higher doses don’t increase these effects—this greatly reduces the risk of overdose compared to other opioids.

Benefits of Taking Bupe

When taken as prescribed, bupe is effective and safe for opioid use disorder—and many people take it indefinitely because they find it helps manage their symptoms and improve their well-being. Benefits of taking bupe include: [1]

  • Increase safety due to the ceiling effect
  • Reduce the potential for opioid misuse
  • Reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Improve engagement in treatment
  • Lower risk of medication misuse (especially when naloxone is added)
  • Reduced risk of HIV, hepatitis B and C and skin infections

How Long Does Buprenorphine Stay in Your System?

Bupe has an average half-life that is between 24 to 70 hours.[3] It is typically taken once per day, but some individuals may take it twice or even three times a day. 

Its long duration of action, in addition to its slow onset of action, is one of the main reasons it is so useful for opioid use disorder treatment.

Using Bupe for OUD

Buprenorphine treatments should be started about 12 to 24 hours after a person’s last use of opioids and only if prescribed by an addiction treatment professional.[4] 

Doses necessary to prevent withdrawal vary greatly between individuals but are usually somewhere between 2 mg to 24 mg daily. 

While buprenorphine can’t make opioid use disorder disappear, it can help to greatly improve patient retention in treatment programs by eliminating many of the worst symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal. 

Patients will typically take buprenorphine on a long-term basis, benefiting most from taking the drug for months or even years. Some people choose to stay on bupe indefinitely in order to prevent relapse. 

Like all MAT, buprenorphine-based treatments should be used as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan. It is important that a patient receives addiction counseling and therapy, often in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, to maximize their chance of a long-term recovery.

Bupe Side Effects

Like all medications, bupe can cause potential side effects, such as: [1]

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Nause and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps and aches
  • Tooth decay
  • Insomnia
  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Blurred vision

Some of these side effects may fade once you are on bupe for longer, but if they are distressing or disrupting your functioning, you may want to talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose.

However, if you experience any serious side effects, such as problems breathing, itching, swelling, or extreme sedation, call your doctor or 911 immediately. You could be experiencing an allergic reaction or sensitivity response.

Bupe FAQs

Is bupe covered by insurance?

Buprenorphine will generally be covered by insurance as long as it is part of a prescribed, evidence-based addiction treatment program.  Bupe is covered by Medicaid in most states. 

Is bupe the same as Suboxone?

Bupe is short for buprenorphine which is the active component of Suboxone. Suboxone is a brand-name drug that combines buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is a non-active ingredient combined with buprenorphine that is not absorbed by the body when taken under the tongue as prescribed. 

Is buprenorphine a controlled substance?

Yes, buprenorphine is a Schedule III controlled substance, which means that it has an accepted medical use, with a moderate to low potential for dependence and misuse.

Is buprenorphine addictive?

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist and has a much weaker opioid action on receptors. For people with opioid use disorder and a history of heavy opioid misuse, buprenorphine will not get them high and isn’t addictive. It causes dependence, which means you can’t just suddenly stop taking it, but dependence is not the same thing as addiction. 

Will buprenorphine affect sperm count?

It is unclear how buprenorphine may affect fertility and sperm count. Some small studies suggest this may be true, but more information is needed on the subject. 
It is still a subject worth discussing with a doctor if you have concerns about fertility, but there doesn’t appear to be any strong evidence buprenorphine negatively impacts fertility and should not be discontinued for this reason. If anything, active opioid use is likely to have equal if not worse impacts on fertility, thus being stable on Suboxone therapy is likely to only help, not harm, one’s fertility.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. September 2023. Accessed October 2023.
  2. Bupe. New York State Department of Health. July 2014. Accessed December 2022.
  3. Buprenorphine. StatPearls. 2022. Accessed December 2022.
  4. Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. The Ochsner Journal. 2018. Accessed December 2022.

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