What Is the Transition From Subutex to Suboxone Like?

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Mar 3, 2023

Very easy. You should feel no difference when transitioning from buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) to buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) or vice versa. 

Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a combination of the active ingredient “buprenorphine” which helps prevent opioid withdrawal, craving, and overdose AND the inactive ingredient “naloxone,” which is not absorbed by the body and is added to the formulation to ensure that Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is not misused. 

For example, if Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) were injected (not taken as it is supposed to), the naloxone would become active (absorbed by the body) and prevent overdose. 

If you are taking the medication as prescribed under the tongue, buprenorphine-monotherapy (Subutex) to buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) work the exact same way since the same active ingredient (buprenorphine) is being absorbed by the body.

So, if your medical provider transitions you from Subutex (just buprenorphine) to Suboxone (buprenorphine + non-absorbed naltrexone) or vice versa, your provider will simply replace one medication with another. As long as you are taking it as prescribed, your body should feel the same.

Subutex to Suboxone Transition FAQs 

Should you talk with your doctor before transitioning from Subutex to Suboxone?

Both Subutex and Suboxone are prescription medications, so you must talk to a doctor to get them. Your doctor can determine the right dose for you and answer any questions about your treatment program. 

Never switch medications without talking to a doctor or your addiction care team. It’s illegal to use these medications without a prescription, including buying them from dealers or using a friend’s drugs. 

Do Subutex and Suboxone have different side effects?

The only difference between Subutex and Suboxone is the addition of Naloxone in Suboxone. The Naloxone, when taken orally, is not absorbed by the body. Therefore, the side effects should be almost exactly the same.

That being said, very small amounts of Naloxone might be absorbed when taking Suboxone. The side effects of Naloxone are very minimal and rare, but occasionally allergic reactions do occur. If you have any intolerance to the Naloxone in Suboxone, your doctor and you might consider switching from Suboxone to Subutex. 

Bicycle Health provides Suboxone therapy for opioid use disorder. Bicycle offers educational resources on Belbuca, Subutex and Sublocade, but does not currently offer those therapies.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

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