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What’s the difference between Subutex and Suboxone?

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March 17, 2021

What is Subutex?

Subutex is the commonly known brand name for buprenorphine-monotherapy. It is a daily, long-term medication used to treat opioid use disorder that is well-known to be safe and effective. Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid in the brain, which is different from oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Buprenorphine sits on the opioid receptors, thereby reducing cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid, it has a ceiling effect—this means that after a certain dose, there is no additional opioid effect, which ultimately decreases the risk for overdose. Buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) is different from buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.


Subutex Strips


What is the difference between Suboxone and Subutex?

Subutex is buprenorphine only, whereas Suboxone is the combination of buprenorphine with naloxone. Naloxone (commonly known as Narcan) is an opioid antagonist, which blocks opioids in the brain. The buprenorphine/naloxone combination is used to discourage misuse of the medication.

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How long does Subutex block opiates?

Buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) blocks opioid receptors in the brain for approximately 31-35 hours after sublingual administration (via films under the tongue), which is the most common route for Subutex treatment.

How to take Subutex?

Buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) treatment for opioid use disorder is via sublingual administration, which is placing films (or tablets) beneath the tongue. Patients should not cut, chew, or swallow Subutex. Please consult with a medical provider to optimize your treatment with buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex).

What is Subutex used for?

Buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) is primarily prescribed to patients who are pregnant, have severe liver disease, or have a documented naloxone allergy. Most other patients are prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone).

Why was Suboxone formulated?

Subutex is an effective medication to treat opioid use disorder, though it can be dangerous if used in ways that are not prescribed by a medical provider. Thus, Suboxone was formulated to lower the risk of misuse. Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, and the naloxone serves as a deterrent to misuse of the medication. Naloxone is not activated when taken sublingually or orally, but if Suboxone is injected or inhaled, the naloxone component precipitates an uncomfortable opioid withdrawal response.

Subutex vs. Suboxone formulations

Subutex is available as a tablet in doses of 2mg and 8mg. Suboxone exists as a tablet and a film formulation (strips), both of which are equally effective and are available in 4 mg, 8 mg, and 12 mg dosage forms.

How to use Suboxone pills/tablets?

Suboxone pills and tablets are ideally placed under the tongue and absorbed sublingually. Patients should not cut, chew or swallow the Suboxone pills/tablets allowing them to dissolve naturally. This process can take up to 15 minutes, during which patients are advised not to eat or drink.

What are Suboxone pills/tablets used for?

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) preparations are highly effective treatments for opioid use disorders. Buprenorphine helps relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, suppresses cravings, and reduces overdose risk. Naloxone reduces the risk of misuse.

Subutex or Suboxone - which one is right for me?

Scientific research and patient feedback have shown Subutex and Suboxone to be equally effective in decreasing opioid cravings and overcoming withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone, though, is the preferred treatment option in most patients due to its reduced potential for misuse. Contrary to popular belief, Suboxone is also safe for pregnant patients. Please consult a healthcare provider to help you determine whether Subutex or Suboxone will work best for you.

How to transition from Subutex to Suboxone?

Switching any medication or altering its dosage without consulting a healthcare provider can lead to undesirable side effects. The transition from Subutex to Suboxone should be discussed and mapped out in detail with your provider, and this transition is safe and can be beneficial long term.

To learn more about Bicycle Health's telemedicine addiction treatment's success rates and safety compared to other treatment options, call us at (844) 943-2514 or schedule an appointment here.

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