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Is Butrans the Same as Suboxone?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Aug 4, 2023 • 5 cited sources

Butrans isn’t the same type of medication as Suboxone, but both contain buprenorphine. 

Butrans is used for relieving severe pain when other non-opioid and short-acting opioid medications cannot provide the needed relief. Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), as it suppresses opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Butrans?

Butrans is a brand name prescription pain medication that comes in the form of a patch, which slowly administers the drug buprenorphine into the wearer’s system.[1] These patches typically work for one week each. 

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning it acts on the opioids receptors in the brain and produces a similar, but lesser, effect to full opioid agonists like heroin and morphine. While not as dangerous or addictive as those more potent opioids, buprenorphine still has some addiction and misuse potential and should only be used as prescribed.

What Is Butrans Used For?

Butrans is used for the management of fairly severe pain. It is only generally used when other non-opioid pain medications or shorter lasting opioid medications cannot produce a similar level of relief. 

The medication is designed for people who will most benefit from daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment with an opioid, a judgment that can only be made by a medical professional. If a person has sporadic bouts of pain, even if that pain can be severe, Butrans won’t typically be a good option for their treatment.[1]

What Are the Differences Between Suboxone & Butrans?

Suboxone is another prescription medication that contains buprenorphine, but it is meant to serve a different purpose.[2] Suboxone combines buprenorphine with naloxone, which helps reduce the misuse potential of Suboxone. 

Rather than being used for pain relief, Suboxone is primarily a Medication for Addiction Treatment. It helps people with opioid use disorder to suppress their drug cravings and avoid withdrawal while having a significantly less potent effect when compared to the opioids associated with misuse and OUD. Because of its reduced potency, ceiling effect, and the presence of naloxone, Suboxone is much less likely to be misused than other opioids like heroin or fentanyl.[3]

Suboxone is taken orally, unlike Butrans, which comes as a patch. Suboxone lasts a shorter amount of time and is taken more regularly. 

Dosing between the two medications can also be significantly different. Suboxone isn’t used for pain relief and thus can generally be taken at a much lower dose for the needed effect.

What Are the Similarities Between Suboxone & Butrans?

Chemically speaking, these medications are very similar, with their primary active ingredient being buprenorphine.[4] Both are prescription medications that, while relatively safe by the standards of prescription drugs, should only be taken as prescribed by a medical professional. 

These medications should not be mixed with other drugs that can cause respiratory depression, as this is also a side effect of buprenorphine. While the respiratory depression buprenorphine causes isn’t usually dangerous on its own for a relatively healthy individual, it can become dangerous if it stacks with other similar effects caused by other drugs. One such drug is alcohol, which should never be taken with a medication that contains buprenorphine.

It is difficult to get a powerful high off either medication, as buprenorphine doesn’t bind to opioid receptors in the same way as drugs like heroin and fentanyl do. Buprenorphine-based medications can sometimes cause euphoria in people who are opioid naïve, but this effect tends to level out. 
Of the two medications, Suboxone is safer in this regard due to its naloxone component. Naloxone will activate if Suboxone is injected (something which may be done to intensify a drug’s effects), and it will reverse the effects of the opioids in a person’s system, including the buprenorphine in Suboxone.[5] This will push the person into immediate withdrawal.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. What Is Butrans? Purdue Pharma L.P. Accessed March 2023.
  2. Suboxone. Indivior UK Limited. Accessed March 2023.
  3. Buprenorphine: Far Beyond the ‘Ceiling’. Biomolecules. May 2021. Accessed March 2023.
  4. Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (Opioid Dependence). National Library of Medicine. January 2022. Accessed March 2023.
  5. Naloxone for Opioid Overdose: Life-Saving Science. National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2021. Accessed March 2023.

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