Buprenorphine vs Naloxone
These two medications are both approved by the FDA. Which is right for you?
What is the difference between buprenorphine and naloxone?
Buprenorphine and naloxone are very different medications. Naloxone is a rescue medication to prevent overdose, while buprenorphine is used to treat opioid addiction.
The two main differences between these medications is that buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder—by reducing cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and providing pain relief—whereas naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose. Both medications are ingredients in Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) and similar medications like Zubsolv. This formulation treats opioid use disorder effectively and limits the possibilities of misuse.
Also referred to as MAT, or MAR (medication-assisted recovery), this is the use of medications and behavioral therapies which have shown to be most effective in the treatment of opioid dependence and use disorder. You can read more about its effectiveness in our guide, Everything You Need To Know About Telemedicine Addiction Treatment, which highlights what the research shows.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that medication-assisted treatment:
Buprenorphine helps to alleviate the brain’s dependence on opioids—such as heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids like prescription painkillers—while also reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. More specifically, it is a partial agonist which produces some mild feelings like opioids, like euphoria and pain relief, but at much lower levels than full opioid agonists like heroin.
Buprenorphine is also the active ingredient in Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) which can be used to prevent misuse of opioids.
How does buprenorphine work?
Buprenorphine is a medication used to sustain recovery from opioid use disorder. It is called a partial opioid agonist, meaning it works in a similar way to opioids by binding to opioid receptors in the brain which causes limited pleasurable effects to stop withdrawal symptoms. However, for most people, it won’t provide the “high” associated with opioids like heroin.
What are the side effects of buprenorphine?
The most common main side effects of buprenorphine include:
Naloxone (Narcan) FAQs
Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is an FDA-approved medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. It works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and reversing and blocking the effects of opioids.
Naloxone is also an active ingredient within Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone). It reduces the risk of overdose and protects against feeling a high if Suboxone is misused or diverted.
How does naloxone work?
Naloxone is a full opioid antagonist. It dislodges opioid molecules from the brain’s receptors and blocks them from binding again. This effect can quickly restore a person’s breathing to normal if that person’s breathing has slowed down or stopped because of an opioid overdose. Naloxone WILL NOT improve breathing in people who have overdosed on other substances (such as alcohol) or for other reasons (such as asthma).
Can I use naloxone to treat opioid use disorder?
No. Naloxone is a life-saving antidote in opioid overdose emergencies. But naloxone cannot treat the underlying problem that caused the overdose: addiction to opioids. A combination of counseling and medications such as methadone, Suboxone, or naltrexone is your best bet for recovery.
What are the side effects of naloxone?
The main side effects of naloxone is that it may bring on the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:
- Muscle aches
Where can I get buprenorphine or naloxone?
Workit Health offers Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) treatment in many states (see our map below). While Workit’s telemedicine Suboxone treatment is 100% virtual in most states, Ohio may require a single in-person appointment to receive Suboxone. If you aren’t in our area, learn other strategies for finding a buprenorphine treatment near you.
To find buprenorphine treatment in your area, the NAABT has a directory called Treatment Match which will connect you with local providers. And the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Buprenorphine Practitioner Locator.
You can locate naloxone at most pharmacies without a prescription, through insurance, and from some community organizations. There are local drives in some areas that provide naloxone for free, to help reduce overdose deaths in the area. Its availability varies from state to state. You can find out how to get Narcan via the Narcan website.
Find your state
Has my opioid use become a problem?
Take our opioid self-assessment to check on your use. This tool should not be used as a replacement for a clinical diagnosis.
Opioid Use Self-Assessment Quiz
Take our opioid self-assessment to check on your use and find out if Workit Health is right for you. This screening tool is a self-evaluation adapted from the DSM screening tool, and is designed as a self-assessment of opioid use.
1. Buprenorphine. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/buprenorphine. Accessed November 2021.
2. Davis, C. S., & Samuels, E. A. (2021). Continuing increased access to buprenorphine in the United States via telemedicine after COVID-19. The International Journal on Drug Policy, 93: 102905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102905
3. Leshner, A. I, & Dzau, V. J. (2019). Medication-Based Treatment to Address Opioid Use Disorder. Journal of the American Medical Association, 4;321(21):2071-2072. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2019.5523.
4. Naloxone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/medications-counseling-related-conditions/naloxone Accessed November 2021.
5. Naloxone DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/naloxone. Accessed November 2021.
6. Lifesaving Naloxone. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/naloxone/index.html. Accessed November 2021.
Our pages are medically reviewed and fact-checked by accredited medical professionals to ensure that all statements about medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, procedures and tests, standards of care, and typical protocols are accurate and reflect current guidelines as well as the latest research. However, please remember that the information on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided on this page. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.