Suboxone® vs. Subutex®: what is the difference?

Here’s what you should know about the similarities and differences between Suboxone and Subutex.

Ophelia team
Suboxone vs Subutex
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Arthur Robin Williams, MD

Opioid dependence has a number of known causes, from  doctors over-prescribing painkillers to people using illegal drugs when they can't get their hands on pills. Fortunately, we now know that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) helps people reclaim control over their lives when dealing with an opioid dependence. In recent years, government agencies, medical experts, and community groups have relied on Suboxone® (important safety information) and Subutex® as the gold standards of care. Here’s what you should know about the similarities and differences between these treatment options. 

What is Suboxone? 

Suboxone is a sublingual film containing buprenorphine and naloxone; it was developed in response to the dangers of buprenorphine usage. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses and blocks the effects of opioids. It's included in Suboxone to discourage misuse and abuse. 

When Suboxone films are taken as prescribed, the body absorbs very little naloxone. However, if someone tries to dissolve the film and inject the medication, large amounts of naloxone will enter the bloodstream and cause withdrawal symptoms. 

Despite the presence of naloxone, Suboxone still carries a small risk of respiratory depression; this is especially true when used with other drugs that depress the central nervous system, like benzodiazepines and alcohol. When taking stimulants along with Suboxone, it is important to be aware of the effects of both. 

Other common side effects of Suboxone include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and headache. 

What is Subutex?

Subutex is a brand name for the medication buprenorphine. It's a partial opioid agonist, which means it activates the same receptors in the brain as opioids like heroin and oxycodone. However, Subutex produces a weaker effect than these drugs. 

The medication is used to treat opioid dependence and addiction. It comes in tablet form and is taken sublingually. Subutex can be addictive, so it's important to take it only as prescribed by a doctor.  

Because Subutex binds to the same opioid receptors as opioid medicines to prevent withdrawal symptoms, a person should have stopped using opioids before taking them. It is also effective at reducing drug cravings. This medication is best administered 6 – 12 hours after using a short-acting last opioid dose or at least 24 hours after a long-acting opioid. Subutex might create withdrawal symptoms if taken too soon after the previous dose of opioids. 

Subutex has several side effects. Some people may experience constipation and require a laxative to relieve it. Other adverse effects include dizziness or lightheadedness. Abuse, addiction, and dependence are also possible with Subutex, although the risk is lower than with other opioids. Subutex should only be used as directed, under close medical supervision, and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to avoid the danger of abuse. 

What’s the difference between Suboxone and Subutex? 

Suboxone and Subutex differ primarily because Subutex only contains buprenorphine, whereas Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Both are used as maintenance treatments to prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but Suboxone is considered the frontline option because the naloxone deters misuse and abuse. 

Doctors usually prescribe Suboxone when there’s reason to be concerned about relapsing or a documented history of it. If this sounds familiar, then you would benefit from the abuse-deterrent qualities of naloxone. While it is possible to switch between medications, this should only be done under medical supervision to reduce the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Subutex is typically prescribed under narrower circumstances, such as when an individual is either pregnant or severely allergic to naloxone.

Where do you get Suboxone and Subutex? 

Both Suboxone and Subutex are Schedule III controlled substances, so there are restrictions on how they can be prescribed. Suboxone and Subutex are only available through a certified physician. When you’re ready to take control with help from Suboxone, you can use Ophelia to connect with a support team of telehealth doctors, nurses, and counselors and begin treatment.

Are you struggling with opioid dependence? 

Ophelia offers Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to help you overcome addiction with help from Suboxone.

With our online treatment platform, you can get the help you need from the comfort of your own home. Our team of experts is available 7 days a week to answer any questions you may have.

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