Differences between Subutex and Suboxone?

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May 20, 2024
Woman questioning the differences between Subutex and Suboxone

Two effective, FDA-approved medications Subutex and Suboxone work differently to help treat addiction. 

To understand the difference between Suboxone and Subutex, you must first understand the difference between methadone and buprenorphine. Before the year 2000, the primary drug used to treat those with the disease of opioid addiction was methadone. In 2002, however, an additional medicine to treat opioid addiction called buprenorphine was approved by the FDA. 

In combination with counseling, buprenorphine has proven to be a superior medication to include in a comprehensive treatment plan. Because of its unique properties, it can lower misuse potential, decrease withdrawal symptoms and protect users in case of an overdose. It’s in both medications, making Suboxone and Subutex opiate blockers, which prevent opiates from producing the desired effect in the body. 

While methadone is a Schedule II substance, buprenorphine is a Schedule III substance. Schedule III has a lower potential for abuse than Schedule II. As a result of the FDA approval, buprenorphine is an alternate treatment medication for opioid addiction alongside methadone. If buprenorphine is the medicine you and your doctor decide is right for you, then you might hear about the two most common forms of buprenorphine, which are Suboxone and Subutex. 

Which is better Suboxone or Subutex? 

Suboxone and Subutex are very effective in treating opioid addiction in their own ways. It’s difficult to say which medication is necessarily better because every person is different. To figure out which medication is best for you, first consider the similarities of the two.  

Suboxone and Subutex interact with the same receptors in the brain that are affected by opioids, such as heroin. However, neither causes the euphoria that results from opioid misuse. Because of this, individuals who take Suboxone or Subutex can live their lives without experiencing cravings or withdrawals. They would normally occur in the absence of opioids, making it difficult to abstain from opioid use for long periods. 

What is the Difference Between Suboxone and Subutex? 

The main difference between Suboxone and Subutex is that Suboxone contains naloxone, and Subutex doesn’t. The naloxone component of Suboxone is not active when absorbed in the mouth. Naloxone is mixed with buprenorphine to prevent misuse. 

If someone taking Suboxone attempts to misuse the medication intravenously or ingesting other opioids, naloxone is activated. It will immediately cause the person to experience withdrawal symptoms and reject opioid effects in the brain.  

Typically, naloxone is a medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose rapidly. It is an opioid antagonist that binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing on opioid substances. Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone, while Subutex only contains buprenorphine. 

Which One Is Right for Me? 

Person discussing which treatment option is better Subutex or Suboxone

Together, you and your provider should decide which formulation is appropriate. Both Suboxone and Subutex decrease cravings and physical symptoms of withdrawal, helping you to stay the course of addiction treatment. 

People struggling with opioid addiction have noted either formulation is effective in treatment. They don’t feel the kind of emotional and physical distress of withdrawal that makes recovery so difficult. Either formulation makes it more difficult or impossible to feel the effects of other opioids, making relapse less likely. Patients can focus on different aspects of their treatment, mainly in substance use counseling. 

Suboxone is the preferred formulation for treatment for most patients. Usually, the choice between the two formulations depends on other factors. If a patient is pregnant or has a documented allergy to naloxone, Subutex is optimal. For those who struggle with chronic relapse, Suboxone is the best option.   

How to Take Subutex 

When prescribed Subutex, you’ll receive a number of tablets, depending on your dosage allotment. You should take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. In general, you’ll take it once a day for the first few days of your detox.  

Taking it soon after symptoms start is the best time. It may be tempting to begin before your symptoms appear to keep from feeling the worst of things. However, this can actually bring on withdrawal symptoms before their time and cause you more discomfort. 

When you take Subutex, place one tablet (or as many as are prescribed to you) under your tongue. Let it dissolve completely before swallowing — it usually takes between five and 10 minutes. Swallowing or chewing the medication as opposed to putting it under your tongue will affect its potency and effects.  

Once dissolved, take a sip of water and swish it around your mouth so the medication mixes with it, then swallow. The water will prevent dental and oral health issues. You should also avoid brushing your teeth for an hour after taking the medication. For the best effects, take this medication at the same time every day and use the proper dosage for you. 

Do not try to inject buprenorphine to take it in any other way than how your doctor tells you to. This action is dangerous and can cause intense withdrawal symptoms, particularly dizziness, headaches and constipation. You’ll likely only be taking Subutex for a few days before switching to long-term Suboxone

How to Take Suboxone 

There are a few different ways to take Suboxone. Your medication will depend on your specific medical history and needs, so type and dosage can vary from person to person. The FDA has approved three forms of absorption: 

  • Sublingual tablets: Similar to Subutex tablets, these pills are meant to be placed under the tongue until they dissolve. 
  • Sublingual films: This form works the same way as the tablets by going under the tongue and dissolving, but it looks like a patch. 
  • Buccal films: Instead of placing this film under the tongue to dissolve, you’ll put it between your cheek and gums. 

Although side effects aren’t common with Suboxone, they can occur. Aside from rare allergic reactions, you may experience excessive sweating, fatigue, back pain, depression, nausea or constipation.  

You may also notice a burning tongue or redness in your mouth. More severe reactions can include breathing problems, liver damage and oral health issues. The best way to prevent serious side effects is to take your prescription only as directed. Contact your prescriber if you start to feel off or unwell. 

Get in Touch With AppleGate Recovery 

Woman calling AppleGate Recovery to get treatment.

If you’re ready to seek recovery and medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, the team at AppleGate Recovery can help. We look forward to hearing from you and guiding you on your journey to better health. Find the nearest location and give us a call or message to learn more about how we can help.