What Is the Difference Between Buprenorphine, Subutex and Suboxone?

One of the biggest hurdles to a successful recovery is the physical response to drug withdrawal. No matter how strong your psychological commitment to getting clean might be, the overwhelming side effects of withdrawal can drive you back to using narcotic drugs like heroin, morphine, OxyContin or Dilaudid. The generic drug buprenorphine, which is marketed under the brand names Subutex and Suboxone, can help you face the challenge of withdrawal and increase your chances of long-term recovery.

Buprenorphine: A New Solution for Opioid Dependence

From the 1960s until the year 2000, methadone was the primary option for people seeking narcotic replacement therapy to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is an opiate agonist that is prescribed under controlled circumstances to treat the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. In 2000, buprenorphine became the first narcotic drug that could be prescribed by certified physicians for the treatment of opioid dependence under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act. In that same year, between 810,000 and 1 million Americans were dependent on heroin in the US, according to the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment.

Unlike methadone, which is classified as a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act, buprenorphine is classified as a Schedule III substance, which means that its potential for abuse is lower than methadone. Methadone can only be prescribed by doctors who are registered under the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Narcotic Treatment Program, and the medication can only be dispensed at authorized clinics. Buprenorphine can be prescribed by any doctor who has received specialized training and certification from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Buprenorphine is widely considered to be a safer, more readily accessible treatment option than methadone.

What Is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine belongs to a class of drugs termed opiate agonists. Like heroin and other drugs derived from morphine, buprenorphine contains chemicals that link with opioid receptors in the brain to reduce pain and produce feelings of well-being. Before it was approved for opioid addiction treatment, buprenorphine was prescribed for many years as a pain reliever. When it’s taken in the prescribed doses, buprenorphine replicates the actions of opioid drugs — only to a much lower degree.

*How Can Buprenorphine Help Me in Recovery?

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, buprenorphine can be an effective component of an opioid addiction treatment program. When combined with behavioral modification and counseling, buprenorphine therapy may:

  • Help you stay physically comfortable while you’re in the early stages of recovery
  • Block your craving for heroin or other street opioids
  • Minimize your chances of having a relapse
  • Help you gradually and safely reduce your dependence on street drugs

What Is Subutex?

Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine. Subutex is taken as sublingual tablets, which are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve. When it’s taken in the prescribed doses, Subutex usually does not generate the same level of euphoria, drowsiness or central nervous system suppression as street narcotics. Subutex isn’t intended to be taken on an as-needed basis; it must be taken under a certified doctor’s supervision and must be used as directed in order to produce the desired effects.

Some users have abused Subutex by crushing the tablets and snorting or injecting them to get a more powerful effect. When Subutex is injected intravenously or snorted in large doses, the drug can suppress your breathing and cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death, warns Drugs.com.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is the commercial name for buprenorphine combined with naloxone, an opioid antagonist. Subutex was the first version of buprenorphine to be prescribed for opioid dependence. Suboxone was developed in response to a need to discourage users from abusing buprenorphine by injecting or snorting the drug to get high. Naloxone was added to the buprenorphine to keep the user from feeling the effects of the drug if Suboxone is injected.

When Suboxone is taken sublingually, you won’t feel the effects of naloxone. However, if you crush the drug and try to inject or snort it, the naloxone will block the pleasurable sensations that high doses of buprenorphine can produce. Suboxone has recently become available as a film, which reduces the potential for abuse even more.

Medication therapy with Subutex or Suboxone is only one aspect of successful rehabilitation. To get clean and remain abstinent, you need the best exclusive addiction treatment program that not only addresses the physical aspects of opioid dependence, but the personal, emotional and social ramifications of this disease.