Is Suboxone Buprenorphine? Medication Relationship Explained

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Is Suboxone Buprenorphine?

Suboxone and buprenorphine are both FDA-approved medications used to treat addiction to illegal and prescription opioids.

Suboxone comprises two main ingredients, Buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine can also be used alone without naloxone.

In this guide, we will cover some common questions you may have, including:

  • Whether Suboxone is Buprenorphine
  • What Suboxone is made of
  • How the two medications differ in use, risks, and safety
  • What the difference is between suboxone and generic buprenorphine.

Let’s get into it!

Is Suboxone Buprenorphine?

Suboxone contains buprenorphine as one of its main ingredients.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist; this means that it binds to the opioid receptors, which is the same place that other opioids bind to. This effectively treats withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

However, Suboxone also includes other components. The medication contains an opioid antagonist, Naloxone, which ensures that the medication is not misused.

What is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a prescription medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder. It can be prescribed by accredited health professionals for people who suffer from opioid addiction as part of Medication-Assisted Treatment. It can be taken either as a sublingual film or a sublingual tablet.

The medication works by binding to opioid receptors and helps treat physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. By doing this, it allows people who are suffering from opioid addiction to manage their substance abuse and helps people focus on getting their lives back on track.

Suboxone is unique in the fact that it also contains an opioid antagonist called naloxone.

Naloxone blocks the effects of buprenorphine if Suboxone is abused. For example, it will block the activation of opioid receptors when taken through the IV route. This reduces the risk of misuse and overdose.

Suboxone vs. Buprenorphine

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Both Suboxone and buprenorphine can be used to treat pain and Opioid Use Syndrome. Although suboxone uses buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence, the two medications differ in their use, risks, and how they work.

Ingredients

Suboxone

Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone as its active ingredients. It can be administered in two forms- either as a sublingual film or as a sublingual tablet. Other ingredients include:

  • Lactose monohydrate
  • Mannitol
  • Maize starch
  • Povidone K 30
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium citrate dihydrate
  • Magnesium stearate
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • Natural lemon and lime flavors.

Buprenorphine/ Subutex

Subutex or buprenorphine contains buprenorphine as its only active ingredient. Other ingredients include:

  • Lactose monohydrate
  • Mannitol
  • Starch-maize
  • Povidone
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium citrate monohydrate
  • Magnesium stearate.

Brand Name

Suboxone is the brand name of the medication that contains buprenorphine and naloxone. Subutex is the brand name of the medication that contains only buprenorphine as its active ingredient.

How It Works / Use Cases

Both medications work by binding to opioid receptors. Buprenorphine is classed as a partial agonist and can be used to treat pain, Opioid Use Disorder, and associated opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

They can be used as a first-line treatment, or when other treatments such as medications containing methadone have failed. If your doctor diagnoses you with Opioid Use Disorder and sees that you have sufficient social support, they may prescribe you either medication.

Misuse Potential

Buprenorphine is an opioid. Although it only weakly binds to where other opioids do, it still has mild addictive potential.

It is a Schedule III drug, meaning that it has the potential for low to moderate physical dependence and a higher risk of psychological dependence. Buprenorphine tablets can be crushed and snorted, or dissolved and used via IV. This makes the potential for misuse quite high.

If misused, there are risks of overdose and respiratory depression. On the other hand, Suboxone contains Naloxone which blocks these receptors if the medication is misused in this way.

The combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist, makes the potential for misuse much lower than with buprenorphine alone. The risk of overdose is also significantly reduced.

Safety

Both medications have risks associated with them. Although they are FDA-approved, they should be used with caution and under supervision by medical professionals.

The main difference between the two is that Suboxone contains naloxone, which stops people from using the medication through the IV route. This decreases the risk of opioid overdoses.

Because they both contain opioids, there are some risks of adverse effects including:

  • Risks to baby during pregnancy
  • Respiratory depression and fatal overdose
  • Liver problems
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Formulations

Suboxone is available in 3 strengths and can be taken as a sublingual film or a sublingual tablet. Buprenorphine can be taken in various ways and is available in varying strengths.

It can either be taken as a patch, a film, a sublingual tablet, or as an extended-release injection. If it is used as an injection, it will likely be in a hospital setting where its use can be tightly controlled.

What’s Better: Suboxone or Generic Buprenorphine?

Both medications can effectively treat opioid withdrawal and are shown to be safer than medication such as methadone.

It’s difficult to conclusively assert which medication is better, as there is little evidence showing exactly which medications are best to use for Opioid Use Disorder.

Because suboxone has the addition of an opioid antagonist, it has a lower risk of injecting or intravenous misuse compared to buprenorphine alone. As such, it is preferred by some physicians.

Either way, it is important to take these medications as prescribed and regularly check up with your doctor.

Conclusion

Both Suboxone and buprenorphine contain buprenorphine as their active ingredients. They can both be used to treat pain and to treat people who suffer from Opioid Use Disorder. However, Suboxone also contains an opioid antagonist which prevents people from misusing the medication.

Either way, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you are considering using either medication.

References

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