Buprenorphine (BPN) is an opiate medication that is increasingly used in the management of Opioid Use Disorder and pain disorders. This case report highlights the acute efficacy of using buprenorphine-naloxone (BPN-NAL) to reverse anhedonia and suicidal ideation in an individual with OUD, chronic pain and severe suicide attempts.
We present a case of a 39-year-old male with a history of bipolar disorder, several lethal suicide attempts and polysubstance abuse, who presented to the hospital after self-immolation, burning 45% total body surface area. He was admitted to the burn unit for three months, reporting continual anhedonia, suicidal ideation, and flashbacks of seeing and feeling himself on fire. He also endorsed chronic pain and hopelessness.
Upon transfer to the behavioral health unit, his symptoms persisted, despite trials of quetiapine, mirtazapine, methadone, oxycodone and prazosin. In consultation with pain management, he was initiated on sublingual BPN-NAL 8mg-2mg treatment as a transition from methadone; he immediately reported improvement in depressive symptoms and a reduction in pain. He was titrated on BPN-NAL and continued to report diminished pain and resolution of depression. Furthermore, his irritability was lessened and he newly cooperated with staff, participating in unit activities. Upon discharge, he exhibited stable mood, adequate pain control and the elimination of suicidal thoughts as well as a proactive drive for substance abuse treatment.
This case describes the significance of BPN on relieving psychic pain and stabilizing mood in a chronically suicidal patient. We speculate that BPN’s pharmacokinetic properties terminate the cycle of short-term opioid-induced analgesia and euphoria with opioid withdrawal-induced hyperalgesia and dysphoria. This results in a steady treatment of pain, as well as maintaining the dopaminergic system, symptomatically translating to mood stabilization and annulling suicidal ideation.