Suboxone and Subutex are both brand name medications containing the semisynthetic opioid buprenorphine. This low-potency opioid produces only a mild high compared to drugs like morphine, heroin, Vicodin, and fentanyl. It’s also unusual in the fact that at a certain point, taking more buprenorphine pills will not produce a greater high.
Individuals can, however, abuse buprenorphine by crushing or dissolving the pills to snort, smoke, or inject them. This creates a faster and more intense high than taking the drug orally due to the fact that it can bypass the digestive system, instead going straight into the bloodstream to travel to the brain all at once. When digested, the drug’s release is more spread out, reaching the brain more gradually and producing a less intense but much longer effect.
What’s the Difference between Suboxone and Subutex?
This is where the difference between Suboxone and Subutex comes in. Subutex is simply the brand name for buprenorphine. It comes in sublingual tablets that are to be placed under the tongue to dissolve. This medication is used for pain relief. The dissolving aspect allows some of the drug to be quickly absorbed through the mucus membranes under the tongue for quick relief, while the rest of the medication is swallowed for long-lasting pain control. This is a recently developed and marketed drug that was created to fill the demand for pain control medications while combating the alarming and continually increasing problem of prescription opioid abuse. In addition to producing less of a high than similar drugs, buprenorphine also has a low potential for overdose.
In spite of these efforts, Subutex can be and is abused, and it can be addictive.
This is especially true for those who are new to opioid abuse and therefore do not have any tolerance to this class of intoxicant.
Suboxone has one key difference to Subutex. Suboxone contains a drug called naloxone, which is an opioid antagonist used to treat overdose cases caused by opioids. It’s incredibly effective, working by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain so that any trace of the drug in the body will be unable to have an effect. Naloxone is an incredibly important medication, especially considering the fact that there were 18,893 overdose deaths from prescription opioids and 10,574 overdose deaths from heroin in 2014 alone, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
The naloxone in Suboxone is actually dormant. It can only be activated if someone dissolves the substance to be injected in order to get high. For those put on Suboxone, this is often the only way to get high from this medication due to the fact that it’s used to treat opioid addiction, and therefore these individuals already have a high tolerance to these kinds of drugs. Suboxone comes in dissolvable strips that go under the tongue – similar to Subutex, only these strips can’t be snorted or smoked. Therefore, anyone who tries to abuse Suboxone will activate the naloxone and, instead of getting high, will be unable to be affected by opioids at all. For those trying to recover from opioid addiction, this also means sudden and intense withdrawal symptoms.
As time goes on, more and more medications are being developed to help those with addiction disorders. Both Suboxone and Subutex have helped many people and possibly saved their lives, but it’s important to educate oneself on the differences between medications like these in order for treatment to be optimally effective.