Both Subutex and Suboxone are medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorders (OUD). Scientific research and patient feedback have shown Subutex and Suboxone to be equally effective in decreasing opioid cravings and overcoming withdrawal symptoms.
The main difference between Subutex and Suboxone is that Subutex contains only buprenorphine whereas Suboxone is the combination of buprenorphine with naloxone.
Subutex is primarily prescribed to patients who are pregnant, have severe liver disease, or have a documented naloxone allergy. Most other patients are prescribed Suboxone due to its reduced potential for misuse.
Subutex is the commonly known brand name for buprenorphine-monotherapy, meaning it only contains buprenorphine as its main ingredient.
Buprenorphine acts as a partial opioid in the brain. It sits on the opioid receptors, thereby reducing cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Since buprenorphine is a partial opioid, it has a ceiling effect. This means that there is no additional opioid effect after a certain dose, which ultimately decreases the risk of overdose.
Suboxone is also a brand-name medication commonly prescribed to patients with OUD. As opposed to Subutex, Suboxone contains a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.
Also known as Narcan, naloxone is an opioid antagonist that blocks opioids in the brain. The combination of buprenorphine with naloxone discourages 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 is available as a tablet in doses of 2 mg and 8 mg.
Subutex treatment for OUD is administered by placing films or tablets beneath the tongue. This process can take up to 15 minutes, during which patients are advised not to eat or drink.
Patients should not cut, chew, or swallow Subutex.
Subutex blocks opioid receptors in the brain for approximately 31 to 35 hours after sublingual administration.
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.
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