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What Is the Difference Between Buprenorphine and Suboxone?

Last updated: Friday, 07, August 2020

In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved for medical use of both Suboxone and Buprenorphine (Subutex). Prior to 2002, methadone was the primary drug used to treat opioid addiction through what is dubbed medication-assisted treatment. Methadone is still listed as a Schedule II drug, while buprenorphine, which in Suboxone and Subutex; is a Schedule II controlled drug. Subutex is pure buprenorphine which is a partial opioid agonist, whereas suboxone has both buprenorphine and naloxone within it. Both drugs are used to treat opiate addiction, whether within a residential or outpatient setting. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016, close to one million Americans reported using heroin in the past year. Many of the trends with heroin abuse surround adults aged 18 to 25. At the start of 2016, around 170,000 people started using heroin. Around this same time, fentanyl started to become a known killer across the country, and heroin abuse still affects urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the US. The rise in opiate use has caused a greater need for treatment, and this is where addicts turn to drugs such as buprenorphine and suboxone.

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Buprenorphine is used in the treatment of opioid addiction but is also administered to treat varying levels of pain. The drug is a partial opioid agonist that binds with the opioid receptors in the brain. Buprenorphine is not as potent as heroin or morphine but still has the potential to cause dependency and addiction. It is primarily used during the initial stages of detox, such as within the first 12 hours of the addict stopping the use of opioids. Suboxone is made up of buprenorphine and naloxone, yet buprenorphine was formulated first, and suboxone was introduced to help reduce the abuse of buprenorphine. When buprenorphine was being abused the user would inject the drug to experience the same effect as heroin. When suboxone is injected, the user will experience immediate withdrawal symptoms because of the naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks the effects of opioids such as heroin or morphine. Both drugs are used in the treatment of opioid addiction, and the biggest difference is the risk of potential abuse. A drug user is more apt to abuse buprenorphine than suboxone.

However, both drugs should be part of a larger treatment approach, and should not be relied on as the sole treatment solution for addiction. If an addict is going through medication-assisted treatment, it should also include counseling and therapy. Both residential and outpatient drug rehab centers offer MAT along with therapy and counseling. The goal at the end of treatment should be to no longer rely on drugs such as buprenorphine or suboxone. An addict should be striving to become drug-free and continue to work on his or her sobriety without the help of these drugs.


Nickolaus Hayes - Author

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