Subutex, also known as buprenorphine, is one of several medications that is approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction as a part of medication-assisted treatment.
Although Subutex is an opioid-based medication, it is not the same as heroin, oxycodone, or most other opioid drugs. Its effects are weaker and it has a lower abuse potential.
What Does Subutex Do?
Subutex is what’s known as a partial opioid agonist. When ingested, it binds to mu-opioid receptors in the brain and body, which regulate mood, pleasure, and physical movement.
Unlike full opioid agonists such as heroin or fentanyl, Subutex only partially activates opioid receptors in the body. This results in weaker effects and makes it safer for use.
What Subutex Is Used For
Subutex is used for the treatment of opioid withdrawal, heroin addiction, and opioid use disorder. It contains the active ingredient, buprenorphine.
When taken as prescribed, Subutex can:
- relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms
- curb opioid cravings
- reduce opioid misuse
Due to its chemical similarity to other opioids, Subutex can also increase safety in the event of an opioid overdose by blocking the effects of other opiates.
Types Of Subutex
Subutex is a brand name for buprenorphine, an opioid-based medication prescribed for opioid use disorder. Subutex is one of several types of buprenorphine products.
Other buprenorphine products include:
- Suboxone (also contains naloxone)
- Zubsolv (also contains naloxone)
- Sublocade (extended-release)
- Bunavail (also contains naloxone)
- Butrans (for chronic pain)
- generic buprenorphine
Buprenorphine is the generic equivalent of Subutex. Generic buprenorphine is generally lower in cost than Subutex and can be just as effective for its intended use when taken as directed.
How To Take Subutex
Subutex comes in the form of a dissolvable tablet. Subutex is taken by placing the sublingual tablet under the tongue to dissolve or melt. It is not meant to be swallowed, crushed, or injected.
The Side Effects Of Subutex
Physical side effects and psychological side effects of buprenorphine can occur. Subutex may cause drowsiness, headache, nausea, dry mouth, and other mild to moderate side effects.
Although less common, serious side effects can occur while taking Subutex. If someone you know is experiencing adverse effects after taking Subutex, contact their doctor right away.
Subutex And Anxiety
Anxiety is not a common side effect of Subutex, although it can be a symptom of opioid withdrawal.
Anxiety can occur if a person injects Subutex or uses it in any way other than prescribed. This can be a sign of Subutex misuse.
Subutex And Effects On Weight
Changes in weight are not a common side effect of buprenorphine treatment.
Weight gain or weight loss can occur as a result of common side effects of Subutex, including nausea, constipation, and increased water retention.
Subutex And Blood Pressure Effects
Hypotension, or low blood pressure, can occur with long-term Subutex use.
Decreased blood pressure while taking Subutex can be a sign of:
- an allergic reaction
- adrenal insufficiency
- drug overdose
Subutex And Depression
Depression is a common symptom of opioid withdrawal. According to research, there is evidence to suggest that Subutex can improve mood in people formerly addicted to opioids.
This evidence also suggests that Subutex may have utility for treatment-resistant depression in people who have co-occurring depressive and opioid use disorders.
Subutex And Sexual Side Effects
Sexual side effects, including sexual dysfunction, can occur while taking Subutex, due to its effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis.
Reported side effects of Subutex include decreased libido, dissatisfaction during intercourse, and erectile dysfunction, in addition to other forms of sexual dysfunction.
Subutex And Effects On Pregnancy
Buprenorphine is one of the first-line treatment options for people with opioid use disorder who are or become pregnant. However, the use of Subutex during pregnancy and breastfeeding isn’t risk-free.
Subutex And Effects On Newborns
Taking buprenorphine (Subutex) while pregnant can lead to mild effects on newborns, including mild symptoms of Subutex withdrawal, or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS).
With treatment and observation, symptoms of Subutex withdrawal following birth can be effectively managed.
Subutex is a medication that comes in tablet form, but not all tablets are the same strength. Subutex comes in two dosage strengths: 2 milligram (mg) and 8 mg tablets.
Dosing for Suboxone is established based on each individual’s needs. The initial dose of Suboxone a person takes will be adjusted until a suitable dosage is identified
Risks Of Subutex Treatment
Taking Subutex as prescribed by a doctor can be safe and effective for its intended use. However, it doesn’t come without certain risks.
Taking higher doses of Subutex, or taking it any way other than prescribed by a doctor, can increase the risk of experiencing adverse effects.
Recreational abuse of Subutex can occur, but this is less common than the abuse of full opioid agonists like heroin or oxycodone.
Subutex, as a partial opioid agonist, does not cause the same euphoric effects as full agonists, and is, therefore, less likely to become a drug of abuse.
Subutex is a medication that is only meant to be taken during early opioid withdrawal after withdrawal symptoms have already begun.
Taking Subutex with opioids still in a person’s bloodstream can trigger acute, severe withdrawal symptoms, including excessive vomiting, fever, and severe muscle pain.
This phenomenon is known as precipitated withdrawal. Due to the potential severity of these symptoms, treatment for precipitated withdrawal may be required.
Mixing Subutex With Other Substances
It’s important to take Subutex exactly as directed by a prescribing physician. Mixing Subutex with other substances, such as benzodiazepines or other opiates, can have serious consequences.
Benefits Of Subutex Vs. Methadone
Subutex and methadone are both medications that are used for the treatment of opioid disorder, in conjunction with substance abuse counseling and behavioral therapy.
Although they can both be effective for this use, they are not the same. They differ in their mechanism of action, side effects, risk of misuse, and cost.
Buprenorphine, or Subutex, is also a newer drug than methadone. People who have an adverse reaction to methadone may talk to a doctor about switching to Subutex for drug addiction.
Cost Of Subutex
Subutex can be costly for people who don’t have health insurance or for people who earn a low annual income.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Subutex treatment costs $115 per week, or nearly $6,000 a year on average, with twice-weekly visits to an opioid treatment program.
Fortunately, Subutex treatment is covered under most health insurance plans. This includes some Medicaid and Medicare coverage plans. The amount of coverage may vary.
How To Get Prescribed Subutex
Subutex can be prescribed by eligible healthcare providers who have either completed specialized training or have received a waiver to prescribe Subutex.
Getting prescribed Subutex will involve setting up an appointment and undergoing an assessment with a healthcare professional who is authorized to prescribe Subutex.
Having questions about Subutex is common and expected. Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Subutex here.
❓ What Type Of Drug Is Subutex?
✔️ Subutex belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids. These drugs are commonly prescribed as painkillers. Unlike most opioids, however, Subutex is what’s known as a partial agonist.
Although Subutex similarly depresses the central nervous system, the effects of Subutex are weaker. It’s also less likely to be misused than most other opioids.
❓ What Does Subutex Look Like?
✔️ Subutex is a sublingual tablet. It is white in color and oval-shaped. Subutex tablets are imprinted with either a ‘B2’ or ‘B8’ on their face, depending on the dosage/strength.
❓ Is Subutex The Same As Suboxone?
✔️ They’re similar but not the same. Subutex is a medication that contains buprenorphine.
Suboxone is a combination product that contains buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist that can reverse opioid overdose.
❓ What Happens If I Swallow Subutex?
✔️ Swallowing Subutex is not recommended. This can reduce its effectiveness, or cause it to not work as well.
❓ How Often Can You Take Subutex?
✔️ Subutex is typically prescribed for use once a day. Depending on the prescribed dosage, this may involve taking one, two, or more tablets.
Taking doses of Subutex more often than prescribed, or in higher doses, can be dangerous. It can also be a sign of drug abuse.
❓ How Long After Taking Subutex Can You Eat?
✔️ Subutex is a medication that is meant to dissolve on the tongue. It’s important to wait until after the tablet has fully dissolved before eating or drinking, as this could reduce its effectiveness.
❓ Does Subutex Get You High?
✔️ Subutex can cause mild euphoric effects in low to moderate doses. However, it doesn’t get a person high in the same way that full opioid agonists like heroin can.
❓ Can You Overdose On Subutex?
✔️ Subutex overdose can occur if someone takes a very high dose of Subutex, or if they mix it with other depressants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opiates.
This can cause severe breathing problems, or respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.
❓ Is Subutex Safe?
✔️ Subutex is safe and effective when taken as directed by a doctor. For many, Subutex can play an important and beneficial role in a person’s treatment during the early stages of recovery.
Find Subutex Treatment For Addiction Today
Opioid addiction affects an estimated 1.6 million people in the United States. If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, you’re not alone. Help is available.
For more information about Subutex and to find addiction treatment near you, call our helpline to learn more today.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—Buprenorphine
- The American Journal of Psychiatry—Depression: What’s Buprenorphine Got to Do With It?
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—SUBUTEX (buprenorphine sublingual tablets) label
- U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)—Sexual dysfunction in men on buprenorphine
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—How much does opioid treatment cost?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Buprenorphine Sublingual and Buccal (opioid dependence)