Buprenorphine/Naloxone Combination: What Does It Do?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 13, 2021

Buprenorphine and naloxone combination products are used to treat opioid addiction as a medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This treatment is often used in conjunction with behavioral therapy or as part of a full rehab program.

Buprenorphine And Naloxone Combination

Buprenorphine and naloxone are ingredients in several medications that are used for the treatment of opioid dependence, heroin addiction, and opioid use disorder.

Buprenorphine/naloxone combination products include:

  • Suboxone (sublingual films)
  • Zubsolv (sublingual tablets)
  • Bunavail (buccal film)
  • generic buprenorphine/naloxone (sublingual tablets)

Buprenorphine and naloxone combination products are evidence-based treatments for opioid addiction that have a low potential for abuse.

These medications increase safety in cases of opioid overdose.

Learn more about using buprenorphine to overcome opioid addiction

What Is Naloxone And What Is Buprenorphine?

Naloxone and buprenorphine are both opioid-based medications.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it binds to opioid receptors but blocks the effects of other opioids in the brain, including feelings of euphoria and pain relief.

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. It binds to the same opioid receptors in the brain as full opioid agonists (e.g. heroin) but activates them much more slowly and not in full. This produces weaker effects.

Together, buprenorphine and naloxone can:

  • treat opioid/heroin cravings
  • reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • treat opioid addiction as a medication-assisted treatment

How Do Buprenorphine/Naloxone Combination Drugs Work?

Buprenorphine/naloxone combinations like Suboxone work in the body by binding to opioid receptors, which help regulate hormones, physical movement, emotions, and pleasure.

Unlike heroin and other opioids, buprenorphine/naloxone products do not produce powerful euphoric effects.

This is due to a “ceiling effect” caused by buprenorphine in which, at a certain point, the effects of the drug will reach their peak.

Because of this ceiling effect, it’s virtually impossible to overdose on buprenorphine/naloxone unless someone has taken it with an excessive amount of one or more other drugs.

Benefits Of Adding Naloxone To Buprenorphine

Adding naloxone to buprenorphine to create a combination product offers several benefits for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

These benefits can include:

  • Reduces risk of misuse: Adding naloxone to buprenorphine creates an additional, built-in deterrent for drug misuse. For this reason, this type of drug has a low abuse potential.
  • Increased safety: Naloxone is an opioid overdose reversal drug. Adding naloxone to buprenorphine increases safety in the event of an opioid overdose.

Buprenorphine by itself can reduce cravings for opioids during the early stages of opioid addiction recovery. With naloxone, the risk of buprenorphine misuse is further reduced.

Buprenorphine/Naloxone Combination FAQs

Having questions about buprenorphine/naloxone combination products is common. Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about buprenorphine/naloxone.

❓ What Are Common Side Effects From Buprenorphine/Naloxone?

✔️ Buprenorphine and naloxone combination medications can come with side effects. These may not be experienced by every person who takes buprenorphine/naloxone.

Side effects of buprenorphine and naloxone can include:

  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating
  • drowsiness
  • stomach pain
  • constipation
  • mouth numbness or redness
  • blurred vision
  • back pain
  • tongue pain

Serious side effects are less common but can occur. This might include swelling, hives, rashes, difficulty breathing, and yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).

❓ Can Buprenorphine/Naloxone Cause Dependence?

✔️ Physical dependence can develop with chronic use of buprenorphine and naloxone. This is not the same as addiction.

Physical dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms if a person misses a dose of buprenorphine/naloxone, or if they try to stop taking it altogether.

If you or a loved one wants to stop taking buprenorphine/naloxone, talk to a doctor about how to safely taper off this medication or to receive additional medical guidance.

❓ Is Buprenorphine/Naloxone The Same As Methadone?

✔️ Buprenorphine/naloxone is not the same as methadone. Although they are both used to treat opioid use disorder, there are some chemical differences between the two drugs.

Primary differences include:

  • different mechanism of action
  • differences in side effects
  • how long they’ve been used
  • cost of medication

❓ Is Buprenorphine/Naloxone Used To Treat Pain?

✔️ Buprenorphine/naloxone products are not prescribed to treat pain.

While buprenorphine can be prescribed separately for chronic pain, combination products containing buprenorphine and naloxone are used only for treating opioid/opiate addiction.

Call Today To Find Suboxone Treatment For Opioid Addiction

Buprenorphine/naloxone is offered as a treatment for opioid use disorder both on its own, and within a full treatment program for opioid addiction.

If you’re looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one addicted to opioids, call our helpline today to find a treatment program that’s right for you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 13, 2021
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