What’s the difference between Subutex and Suboxone?

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 like 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 means it blocks opioids in the brain. The buprenorphine/naloxone combination is used to discourage misuse of the medication.

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 a documented naloxone allergy. Most other patients are prescribed buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). 

About the Author

Rebekah L. Rollston, MD, MPH

Dr. Rollston is a Family Medicine Physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Affiliate Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Primary Care Blog, and Founder of Doctors For A Healthy US, LLC. She earned her Medical Degree from East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University. Her professional interests focus on social influencers of health & health disparities, addiction medicine, sexual & reproductive health, homelessness & supportive housing, and rural health.


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