Suboxone was officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for opioid use disorder in 2002. The FDA is the governing body responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of all prescription drugs in the United States.
Suboxone contains two ingredients: buprenorphine and naloxone. Both were discovered years ago, and they weren’t combined until much later.
How Suboxone’s Ingredients Were Discovered
Chemists created buprenorphine and naloxone separately, and they were designed to do two different things.
In the late 1960s, chemists created buprenorphine inside a lab. It’s a synthetic compound that mimics one grown naturally inside a poppy plant.
Chemists hoped to use this medication to ease chronic pain. Since the early 1980s, buprenorphine has been used as a pain control remedy. It wasn’t until 2002 that it was approved for use as an addiction therapy.
In the 1960s, other chemists created naloxone to help people reduce the risks of opioid overdose, and it was approved by the FDA for this purpose in 1971.
Why Were They Combined?
Suboxone was designed for pain control, but when designing Suboxone, researchers were concerned about its potential for misuse and to be injected inappropriately in an attempt to “get high”. For this reason, Naloxone was added to Suboxone. If an individual attempts to dissolve and then inject the Suboxone strips, the Naloxone will be absorbed along with the buprenorphine into the bloodstream, binding instead to opioid receptors and blunting the buprenorphine from acting and causing an overdose. In this way, the addition of Naloxone acts as a protective mechanism to prevent overdose if the drug is misused.
- Buprenorphine. Drug Enforcement Administration. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/buprenorphine.pdf. May 2022. Accessed July 2022.
- Buprenorphine. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459126/. May 2022. Accessed July 2022.
- Buprenorphine and the Opioid Crisis: A Primer for Congress. Congressional Research Service. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R45279.pdf. December 2018. Accessed July 2022.
- Naloxone. American Chemical Society. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/n/naloxone.html. May 2016. Accessed July 2022.
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