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Subutex vs Suboxone

These two medications are both approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Which is right for you?

What is the difference between Suboxone and Subutex?

Subutex and Suboxone are both sublingual medications (dissolved under the tongue) that use buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction.  The difference is in their formulations. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone, while Subutex contains buprenorphine only.

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illustration of Suboxone - buprenorphone/naloxone

Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) FAQs

Suboxone is the brand name for an FDA-approved medication (buprenorphine/naloxone) used to treat opioid addiction. This medication is endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration as the preferred method of treatment for opioid addiction treatment.

Suboxone helps to alleviate the brain’s dependence on opioids, like heroin, fentanyl, and other prescription pain relievers, while also reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Suboxone is part of a group of interventions called medication-assisted treatment used to treat opioid use disorder.

Suboxone 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, it won’t provide the “high” associated with opioids like heroin. Suboxone also contains naloxone (known by the brand name Narcan), which is an opioid antagonist meaning it blocks opioid receptors, preventing misuse.

Bottom line, Suboxone:

  • Helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduces cravings for opioids
  • Prevents misuse of Suboxone and/or other opioids
  • Decreases the risk of relapse

Like other medication-assisted treatments, Suboxone is often prescribed alongside behavioral therapy, which has been found to be most effective in the treatment of opioid addiction. You can read more about the science of Suboxone in our Health Guides.

Yes. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, you will need to prepare for your first dose of medication-assisted treatment containing buprenorphine. This means stopping using opioids for a specified amount of time before you take Suboxone in order to prevent unpleasant side effects. That time period depends on whether the opioid you have been taking is a short-acting or long-acting opioid. Generally speaking, short-acting opioids like Percocet, heroin, and Vicodin should be ceased 12-24 hours before your first dose. Longer-acting opioids, like morphine, methadone, and Oxycontin are generally discontinued 36-48 hours before your first dose of Suboxone.

The key is checking in with an experienced physician license to prescribe this medication, who can advise you of the appropriate time frame based on your unique medical history.

Like with any medication, some people experience side effects when taking Suboxone. These may subside over time. Common side effects include:

  • numbness in the mouth
  • mouth redness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • numbness or tingling
  • sleep problems
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • drowsiness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mouth pain

Suboxone is a sublingual film. It is important to allow the medication to fully dissolve under the tongue or against the cheek (not chewing or swallowing) in order to receive the full dosage, as buprenorphine is not absorbed well in the stomach or intestines.

You may have heard of naloxone under the brand name Narcan. Narcan and other naloxone-only formulations are life-saving medications that can reverse an opioid overdose almost instantly. This means that if someone has too much of an opiate in their system, naloxone will bind more strongly to those receptors, knocking them free and reversing a potentially fatal overdose. 

As mentioned above, Suboxone is taken sublingually (placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve). This is because buprenorphine is absorbed really well under the tongue. Naloxone, however, does not absorb well sublingually. When you take Suboxone as prescribed, the naloxone is essentially doing nothing. It is only is Suboxone is taken inappropriately that naloxone will kick in, blocking an illicit high or overdose. This makes Suboxone less likely to be diverted or misused.

Subutex (buprenorphine) FAQs

Subutex contains buprenorphine only. Like Suboxone, Subutex is an FDA-approved medication that helps to treat opioid addiction.

Subutex is a brand name for buprenorphine, which is 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, it won’t provide the “high” associated with opioids like heroin. 

Bottom line, Subutex:

  • Helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms
  • Reduces cravings for opioids
  • Decreases the risk of relapse

Like other medication-assisted treatments, Subutex is often prescribed alongside behavioral therapy, which has been found to be most effective in the treatment of opioid addiction. 

Yes. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, you will need to prepare for your first dose of medication-assisted treatment containing buprenorphine. This means stopping using opioids for a specified amount of time before you take Subutex in order to prevent unpleasant side effects. That time period depends on whether the opioid you have been taking is a short-acting or long-acting opioid. Generally speaking, short-acting opioids like Percocet, heroin, and Vicodin should be ceased 12-24 hours before your first dose. Longer-acting opioids, like morphine, methadone, and Oxycontin are generally discontinued 36-48 hours before your first dose of Subutex.

Some of the reported side effects of taking Subutex include:

  • sleep problems
  • headache
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sweating
  • pain

As with all side effects, they vary per person and can dissipate after a period of time taking the medication.

Subutex is a sublingual pill. It is important to allow the medication to fully dissolve under the tongue or against the cheek (not chewing or swallowing) in order to receive the full dosage, as buprenorphine is not absorbed well in the stomach or intestines.

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Where can I get Suboxone or Subutex?

Workit Health offers Suboxone 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 Suboxone Clinic near you. Workit does not prescribe Subutex.

To find Suboxone or Subutex 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

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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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.

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.