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Subutex vs. Suboxone – Similarities and Differences

Subutex and Suboxone are drugs that are used in managing opioid dependence. Here we shall take a look at these drugs in a bit more detail, concentrating on the similarities and differences between the two.

What are subutex and suboxone?

Subutex is the trade name for buprenorphine hydrochloride while Suboxone is the trade name for buprenoprhine and naloxone. Both these drugs are used in managing opioid dependence and are fairly effective. Subutex and Suboxone are both FDA approved drugs. Subutex is utilised in the initial stages of management of opioid dependence while Suboxone is used in the maintenance phase.

Generally speaking, there are no significant differences between the two drugs as they both have a common component in buprenorphine hydrochloride. Hence, the overall effects will likely be the same initially. However, the naloxone component within Suboxone helps prevent overdose of opioids. Both Subutex and Suboxone are available under the drug abuse and treatment act (DATA) of 2000 in management of opioid dependence.

Mechanism of action

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist of the opioid receptors. Patients who have opioid dependence who take buprenorphine experience lesser withdrawal symptoms as the same receptors are being activated which would have done if they were taking heroin. It is for this reason that subutex is utilised in the early stages of opioid dependence management. Once the cravings have passed, patients are commenced on suboxone as maintenance dose.

The naloxone that is present in suboxone is an opioid receptor blocker. When buprenorphine and naloxone are combined, the amount of buprenorphine that binds to the opioid receptors is gradually reduced. This helps the patients withdraw safely from opioid dependence.

But subutex and suboxone are available as sublingual medication in the form of tablets or films.


The side-effects that are associated with subutex and suboxone include headaches, difficulty sleeping, nausea, flulike symptoms, depression and mood swings. These are rare and are often picked up early as patients taking these medications are closely monitored.


As discussed above, subutex and suboxone are utilised in managing opioid dependence. In the early stages, subutex is utilised in small doses with the dose gradually increasing over a short period of time. Once the adequate dose has been achieved patients will be commenced on suboxone. This will be carried on as a maintenance dose until clinically indicated.

Subotex and suboxone are similar in many aspects be different with regards to the chemical composition and utilisation in the management of opioid dependence. That control is not as stringent as methadone prescription can only be made by trained professionals who have experience managing opioid dependence. Side-effect profiles are the same.

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