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Should I Take Suboxone Pills or Suboxone Strips?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Mar 12, 2024 • 8 cited sources

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) in both the films/strips and tablets/pills formulations are equally effective in treating opioid cravings and withdrawal and preventing overdose and deaths.[4]

The choice between pills and strips is personal. Some prefer the taste of strips over pills. Some prefer the experience of pills over the strips. And some must use the form of medication their insurance companies cover.

Who Chooses the Form of Suboxone You Take?

Usually, your insurance company determines which formulation of Suboxone they will cover and hence which formulation you will be prescribed.

Strips and tablets are considered interchangeable, so insurance companies might switch back and forth depending on availability and cost.[2],[5]

Suboxone strips or films tend to be more expensive than tablets.[2] For example, GoodRx says the lowest price available for generic films is roughly $40 for 14 strips while the lowest price for 14 tablets is $25.[7]

If you request a brand-name medication, expect to pay more than you will for a generic form. And you might pay more if you take higher doses, as you’ll need more of your medication every month.

Suboxone Strips vs. Pills 

Due to individual factors and influences, everyone’s experience and preference of which Suboxone type to take will vary. However, below is a table comparing the results from a study conducted by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of Suboxone, and another conducted by Veterans Affairs (VA): [5],[6]

Dissolve time5-7 minutes7-12 minutes
TasteStronger preferenceWeaker preference
Patient preferenceStronger preferenceWeaker preference
AbsorptionMore efficient absorptionLess efficient absorption
Bioavailability2 times greater50% of the film’s

Suboxone Tablets vs. Film: Clinical Effectiveness

In head-to-head studies of Suboxone tablets and films, researchers found no differences in clinical efficacy or treatment outcomes. People using both tools had similar experiences in recovery, and there were no differences in side effects or blood plasma levels. The medications seem to be interchangeable in terms of results.[8]

Older versions of Suboxone tablets were slow to dissolve, and they could leave a sticky and chalky residue behind. That slow dissolving rate also meant that the drug didn’t enter a person’s system as quickly as the films. Newer versions of tablets have solved that problem, researchers say, making the two types of products even more similar.[8]

These products work by dissolving inside your mouth. Medications move from your mucosal membrane into your bloodstream, delivering active ingredients to receptors in your brain and body. The only difference between the two products is the way the medication is packaged and used. They have the same mechanism of action, and both are effective in helping you overcome OUD.

Film vs. Tablets: How Do You Take Them?

Whether you take pills or strips, it’s critical to follow instructions. Your doctor should tell you exactly how to use your medication. But a few basic rules apply.

How to Use Suboxone Film

To use the film:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Remove the strip from protective packaging. 
  • Place the film under your tongue.
  • Wait until the strip is completely dissolved.

The films/strips dissolve faster than the tablets/pills, though both should be kept under the tongue for at least 5 minutes.

How to Use Suboxone Pills

Patients will often say they prefer the taste of one over the other, but this preference is often very individualized. If you don’t like the strips, pills may be a better choice.

To use pills:

  • Wash your hands. 
  • Place your pill (or pills) under your tongue.
  • Wait until the pills are completely dissolved. 

Treat Your OUD

Whether you receive treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) films/strips or tablets/films, both are considered evidence-based, scientifically proven first-line Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) for patients struggling with opioid use disorder.

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. Maryland Switches Opioid Treatments, and Some Patients Cry Foul. National Public Radio. July 2016. Accessed September 2022.
  2. Buprenorphine for Opioid Dependence: Are There Really Differences Between the Formulations? Mental Health Clinician. January 2014. Accessed September 2022. 
  3. Buprenorphine with Naloxone for Opioid Dependence. NPS Medicinewise. September 2011. Accessed September 2022.
  4. Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. March 2011 PBAC meeting outcomes 2013: positive recommendations. Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing, 2011.  (accessed Jan 2024).
  5. Suboxone Sublingual Film. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc., Richmond, VA:. Accessed December 2023.
  6. Buprenorphine / Naloxone Buccal Film (BUNAVAIL) C-III National PBM Abbreviated Drug Review. Sep 2014. Accessed December 2023.
  7. Generic Suboxone Film. GoodRx. Accessed February 2024.
  8. Buprenorphine and Its Formulations: A Comprehensive Review. Health Psychology Research. August 2022. Accessed February 2024.

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