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What is Subutex? How does Subutex work?

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June 15, 2021

Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) are a critical tool for individuals struggling with opioids. Research has repeatedly shown the efficacy of this pharmacological component. To date, there are three medications that are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder (OUD): methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. All brand name MOUD prescriptions include one, or a combination, of these three medications. Common brand names include Bunavail, Belbuca, Subutex, Suboxone, Naltrexone (Vivitrol), Sublocade, and ZubSolve. There are unique characteristics and side effects associated with each medication. This page focuses specifically on the brand name Subutex

What is Subutex?

Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine-monotherapy sublingual film or tablet. The term “sublingual film” or “sublingual tablet” refers to the medication’s route of administration. Buprenorphine can come in several different forms including buccal film, sublingual film, sublingual tablet, injection, or implant. Sublingual films and sublingual tablets are placed beneath the tongue and dissolve into the mouth. When administered sublingually, Subutex lasts for roughly 31-35 hours after taking. 

Some medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), like Suboxone or Zubsolv, are a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. In contrast, Subutex is a buprenorphine-monotherapy. Buprenorphine-monotherapies do not combine ingredients. Subutex is strictly composed of buprenorphine. To fully understand how Subutex works, we need to understand how buprenorphine works. 

How does Subutex work?

As previously mentioned, buprenorphine is one of the three FDA-approved medications used to treat OUD. It is available in a variety of forms including as a buccal film, sublingual film or tablet, injection, or implant. Buprenorphine is known as a partial opioid agonist. A partial opioid agonist helps to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms in individuals with OUD. It does this by interacting with the same opioid receptors that are activated by full opioid agonists. Examples of a full opioid agonist include oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, and methadone. Unlike a full agonist, buprenorphine does not fully activate the opioid receptors. Buprenorphine has a “ceiling effect” because it only partially activates opioid receptors. It is nearly impossible for those with OUD to get “high” or experience euphoric effects with buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a maintenance medication that can be used temporarily or as a long-term treatment for patients with OUD. 

Learn more

Bicycle Health is dedicated to helping people get off and stay off opioids. To learn more about the success rates and safety of Bicycle Health’s telemedicine addiction treatment in comparison to other common treatment options, call us at (844) 943-2514 or schedule an appointment here.

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