Suboxone® or Subutex®: What’s the Difference?

January 12, 2018

Suboxone® or Subutex®

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 2000, however, an additional medicine to treat opioid addiction called buprenorphine was approved by the FDA. 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®.

The Similarities

Both Suboxone® and Subutex® are medications used in treatment to help individuals with the disease of opioid addiction. Suboxone® and Subutex® interact with the same receptors in the brain that are affected by opioids, such as heroin, but without causing the euphoria that results from opioid use. Because of this, individuals who take Suboxone® or Subutex® under professional supervision can live their lives without experiencing the cravings or withdrawals that would normally occur in the absence of opioids.

The Differences

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. Normally naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it 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 with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications. Suboxone® contains both buprenorphine and naloxone while Subutex® only contains buprenorphine.

Which One Is Right for Me?

Together you and your provider should decide which formulation is appropriate. Both Suboxone® and Subutex® significantly decrease cravings, combat physical symptoms of withdrawal, and help you to stay the course in 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 other aspects of their treatment. Suboxone® is the preferred formulation for treatment. Typically the choice between the two formulations is based on other factors. If a patient is pregnant or has a documented allergy to naloxone, Subutex® is chosen. No matter the formulation taking the first steps to overcome a dependency on opioids and getting treatment for the disease of addiction is HUGE. To make sure you are getting the best care possible, talk to your healthcare professional and together you can determine which of these medications will be the best for you.

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