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 quite 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 available together as Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) to treat opioid use disorder effectively and limit the possibilities of misuse.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

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 comprehensive 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 FAQs

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:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

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:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweating
  • Yawning

Where can I get buprenorphine or naloxone?

Buprenorphine

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

Naloxone

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.

Medication-assisted treatment available in many states

With multiple clinic locations around the country, we are working to bring the very best care to you.

Online therapy available nationwide.

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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.