Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist-antagonist. What that means is that it works in the brain at the same location as opioids but only has a partial effect.
Buprenorphine acts on a receptor in the brain where it blocks opioids from binding. The buprenorphine treats the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The risk of breathing being affected by buprenorphine is far lower than with opioid pain medications.
Typically buprenorphine does not require escalating dosages and can often be taper down over time.
Buprenorphine is also appropriate for long-term use to prevent a relapse if needed.
Buprenorphine is often prescribed in combination with naloxone. The naloxone further decreases the risk of overdose if the medication is misused.